- If you want to feel better and prevent disease — exercise regularly — it’s one of the best things you can do.
- You don’t have to run a marathon for exercise…just move more. Park your car further away, take the stairs, play catch with your kids. Any movement you do makes a difference.
- The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 days a week for optimal health — three 10-minute periods of activity are as beneficial to your overall fitness as one 30-minute session.
Hippocrates, the father of western medicine, in the fifth century BC described an association between health and exercise:
“All parts of the body, if used in moderation and exercised in labors to which each is accustomed, become thereby healthy and well developed and age slowly; but if they are unused and left idle, they become liable to disease, defective in growth and age quickly.”
The London buses
The first study to bring home the notion that exercise compared to sedentary activity was desirable was not until a 1953 report by Morris on British transport workers. His pivotal observations showed that London conductors who spent their day collecting tickets on those double decker buses had much less cardiovascular disease including less premature death compared to the sedentary drivers who spent their shift sitting behind the wheel. Since then, the science has supported the consistent message that regular aerobic exercise can decrease the risk of death and age-related diseases in older adults. The exercise-related health benefits are related in part to favorable changes in both the traditional and emerging cardiovascular risk factors that have been observed with increased physical activity patterns or structured exercise programs.
Despite this, nearly 75% of Americans do not exercise at recommended levels. The risk for cardiovascular disease related to a sedentary lifestyle is similar to other risk factors like hypertension and cigarette abuse.
Health benefits of moving more are many
- Reduce risk factors: lower BP, lower blood sugar and boost good HDL-cholesterol
- Improve muscle strength and stamina
- Lower heart attack risk and other cardiovascular disease by 30-40 percent
- Lower stroke risk by 20 percent in moderately active people and by 27 percent in those who are highly active
- People who are physically active and at a healthy weight live about 7 years longer than those who are not active and are obese.
- Help to quit smoking
- Prevents bone loss
- Help manage stress and reduce anxiety and depression
- Help with sleep: fall asleep faster and sleep more soundly
- Improve self-image
- Help delay or prevent chronic illnesses and diseases associated with aging including dementia and maintains quality of life and independence longer for seniors
Some of the landmark trials exploring the link between exercise and health are referenced below:
Morris JN, et al. Coronary heart-disease and physical activity of work. Lancet. 1953;265:1111–1120
Blair SN, et al. Changes in physical fitness and all-cause mortality: a prospective study of healthy and unhealthy men. JAMA. 1995;273:1093–1098.
Manson JE, et al. Walking compared with vigorous exercise for the prevention of cardiovascular events in women. N Engl J Med. 2002;347:716–725
Paffenbarger RS Jr., et al. The association of changes in physical-activity level and other lifestyle characteristics with mortality among men. N Engl J Med. 1993;328:538–545
Mora S, et al. Physical activity and reduced risk of cardiovascular events: potential mediating mechanisms. Circulation. 2007;116:2110–2118.