July 1st, 2012 - Recently, the Copenhagen City Heart study reported that people who jog at least an hour per week
live an average of six years longer—6.2 years for men and 5.6 years in women.
The precise details show that jogging between one and two-and-half hours per week divided into two or three sessions at a self-described slow to average pace, was associated with a 44% reduction in relative risk of death over 35 years—compared with deaths among non-joggers, according to Dr. Peter Schnohr, chief cardiologist in the study.
Joggers also reported a happier life. This was not unexpected since joggers typically have an overall sense of well-being due to the endorphins released by exercise. Endorphins are chemical mediators released from deep inside the brain in response to pleasurable stimuli such as exercise, eating, excitement, etc. These endorphins resemble opiates or narcotics in their ability to produce anesthesia or a feeling of well-being.
However, jogging by itself is not enough. Other studies have shown that what you do the rest of your day also affects your health. Studies of daily motion patterns—using a movement monitor—revealed that some runners are very sedentary the rest of the day. Staying in motion, getting up from a desk, walking around an office, climbing steps, avoiding long sessions of email or TV are all important in extending longevity.
Being sedentary puts one at great risk. The National Cancer Institute studied 250,000 Americans over an eight year period. These individuals answered detailed questions about how much time they spent commuting, watching TV, sitting at a computer, exercising, as well as their health in general, according to a New York Times
article summarizing this report.
Sadly, after only eight years many participants were ill and quite a few had died. The differentiating factor between surviving or not was the amount of sedentary time. Those who watched TV for seven or more hours per day had a much higher risk of premature death. TV time is an excellent proxy for sedentary time which, in turn, is an excellent predictor of a shorter life span.
Exercise lessens the harmful effects of being sedentary but not as much as you might think. If you exercised and watched TV both for seven hours per week you only improved your longevity slightly. There was a small group in this study who worked out seven hours per week and watched TV for less than an hour per day; this motivated group did well and these behaviors should be our model.
What can we expect in regard to the amount of time we spend watching TV? An Australian study determined that watching as little as one hour of TV per day decreases your lifespan by 22 minutes. If you watch no
TV in your adult life, you add over one and a half years of longevity.
People also perform better mentally after just several weeks of exercise or fitness training. According to a recent New York Times
publication summarizing studies conducted by the Laboratory of Neuroscience at the National Institute of Aging, running and other forms of endurance exercise increase the number of neurons in the brain.
Finally, don’t forget that attitude has a great influence on our health. The more we exercise the better our mental attitude. The better our mental attitude the more we tend to exercise. This is a virtuous
cycle which has been objectively shown to decrease heart disease, the leading cause of death in America.
The Harvard School of Public Health reviewed over 200 studies showing that “positive psychological attributes,” in other words— optimism and positive emotions—offer increased protection against cardiovascular disease. These positive emotions can and have been shown to overcome the negative effects of aging, being overweight, smoking, and lower socioeconomic status. Please don’t misunderstand: smoking and being obese are real risk factors which can only be slightly moderated by a positive attitude and exercise.
We are in control of our own lives. We can influence our well being mentally and physically. Sitting, watching TV, and having a negative attitude perpetuate a vicious cycle and will shorten your life. Staying active physically and mentally will sustain and improve the quality of your life.
The choice is yours. Make the right decision: and turn off the TV and take a walk!