Humans have been looking for the fountain of youth since the dawn of exploration. Scientists study biology and health, looking for the key to unlock longevity and wellness. We hear about diet, telomeres, and blue zones, all pointing to healthier, longer lives. But truth be told, most of us are looking for an easy way to live longer assuming that in doing so, we are healthy.
The key to all of this is no secret—it’s exercise. Scientists have long proven the value of regular physical activity. Heck, we’ve known this since the time of Hippocrates (460-370 B.C.) when he wrote, “Eating alone will not keep a man well. He must also take exercise. For food and exercise… work together to produce health.”
The value of exercise seems endless. It helps with the heart, brain, lungs, liver, mood, sleep, pain, vision, arthritis, bones and the immune system. It may help prevent diseases such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, fatty liver, low back problems, osteoporosis, depression, anxiety, and Alzheimer’s.
In short, exercise is a miracle elixir. If it is so great, why don’t we all do it? Because it is hard work. Many of us aren’t in the habit of exercising, and just thinking about doing it is enough to send most of us off to take a nap. Add in the fact that most of us are busy, and finding time to do it can be difficult. Plus, being sick or out of shape adds another dimension to exercise that makes it seem too big to undertake.
Exercise may seem hard, but it doesn’t have to be…
Let’s start with the optimum goal. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that adults get 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week AND muscle-strengthening activities on 2 or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders, and arms). Brisk walking or pushing a lawn mower are examples of moderate-intensity. Instead you could do 75 minutes of vigorous activity weekly, such as running or jogging, but I promise you, that will not be happening with me. I’m like the tortoise in that I am more likely to make it to the finish line if I take it slow.
Here is the good news. You can do this ten minutes at a time.
Here is the bad news (unless you like to exercise, then it is good news): More is better. Twice as much exercise (300 minutes a week) has even more health benefits.
Here’s the trick…
The trick to regular exercise is to find something you like to do. Here are examples of cardio activities: walking, cycling, gardening, housework, dancing, swimming, actively playing with your dog or grandchildren, hiking, playing tennis, rowing, etc. Don’t like to lift weights? Try yoga, Tai Chi, or other strengthening activities.
My preferred activities are dance aerobics, walking, and group strength training. I do this religiously because I feel the consequence when I don’t. But, getting started was an ordeal. I had every excuse in the book. I was too busy, too tired, too whatever. Eventually the excuses didn’t make sense any more. I wanted to feel good and exercise was the elixir of life.
I admit, that if I could take a pill what could do everything that exercise does, I’d do it. But, I haven’t. So until that time, you’ll find me kicking up my heels, stronger, and healthier because of the effort.