Most people have read about the importance of staying physically fit. Years ago, before we lived in nice homes that were heated, we required a lot of work to stay warm, to prepare our meals and care for our livestock. Preparing a chicken dinner required killing, and then removing the feathers before we even cooked the animal. Preparing vegetables when available required going out into the field and gathering them and then cooking them. All of this required physical activity. Even going to school may have required walking long distances. Meals were not the regular Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner we now take for granted, which were brought to us by the industrial age. Much of the work we used to do including activities like chopping wood had aerobic benefits as well as effects on our skeletal system at the cellular level.
In today’s society, more of us have sedentary lifestyles, and jobs that require more sitting than activity. Sure, you can wear an activity tracker to count the steps you have taken but the fact is, most American’s fill gyms to try and make up for the inactivity they have during the day. The big idea here is that high intensity for relatively small periods of time (for those of us who lead busy lives) can be enough to improve and maintain our level of overall fitness. It can also improve your health as you age, give you more energy and keep you healthier as you age.
How much exercise do you really need to improve your level of overall fitness, while offering other health benefits too.
- According to an article cited by the NY Times and published in the Journal Experimental Physiology, four 30 second bouts of exercise of all out exercise on an exercise bike just 10 minutes over 6 weeks can have a positive effect on your overall fitness at the cellular level. (1).
- Another study shows that regular high intensity exercise is important for maintaining cellular level and muscular fitness, while avoiding age related degeneration (2). This means that if you maintain your level of fitness as you age with high intensity exercise, you are much less likely to maintain muscle mass than those who don’t, something that will likely keep you physically much healthier than someone who does not exercise, or does not do high intensity exercise. According to the first study cited, you may require just a certain quality of exercise for short convenient sessions three times weekly to stay fit as you age.
- Lastly, In 2015, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges put out a report calling exercise a “miracle cure” which was based on a huge meta-analysis (3). They published this paper because of the way exercise can reduce the likelihood of all types of mortality by 27 percent and cardiac based mortality by 31 percent. Exercise is also known to lower Triglyceride counts as well as improve blood pressure.
Regular exercise is important to keep us healthy and over many years, will allow us to age with fewer health problems. The great news is that according to some of the latest research, it is not the quantity of exercise, but the quality of it that can help us stay healthy, something those of us with busy lifestyles can appreciate.
- Intermittent and continuous high-intensity exercise training induce similar acute but different chronic muscle adaptations Volume 99, Issue 51 May 2014 Pages 782–791. Link to article here
- Motor unit number estimates in masters runners: use it or lose it? Power GA1, Dalton BH, Behm DG, Vandervoort AA, Doherty TJ, Rice CL.
Dr. William Charschan is the current medical director for USATF NJ and maintains practices in North Brunswick and Scotch Plains, NJ. He is also the Author of Cheating Mother Nature, what you need to know to beat chronic pain, available through Amazon.com and other fine booksellers.