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Saturday, May 10, 2014

What is the baseline amount of exercise for a person to be healthy?

The human body is built for movement.  If we do not move frequently, we become weaker and life is shortened: "Being upright and able to move freely" is a cynic's definition of being alive!  It is not a question of whether or not exercise is good for you: The real question is 

"How much and how often should we exercise to remain healthy throughout life?"

I am convinced that the keys to longevity are:

  • Nutritional balancing which is increasingly important as we get older.
  • Harmony in one's life - loving, healthy relationships and community and not holding grudges.
  • Regular, moderate exercise.
  • Being free of disease and the need for medication.

What do we mean by "moderate"?  Probably the easiest measure is steady exercise that is sufficient to have you puffing while still allowing you to keep a conversation going.

The baseline amount of moderate exercise necessary for health, as determined by one study after another, is surprisingly little.  Most experts recommend accumulating 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least days a week: Exercises such as digging the garden, swimming and walking.  Notice I used the word "accumulating".  Whether it is 5 minutes of exercise here and there, such as walking up the stairs instead of taking the lift and walking home it really does not matter.  What really matters is the total time per day.  Pedometers can be very handy for keeping track of cumulative exercise by the way.

While most adults probably meet the daily and weekly minimum, I wonder how many of their children get anywhere near it?

Excessive exercise, on the other hand, may shorten your life.  Four or more hours of intense exercise, such as running, per week may be all it takes to negate the benefits of exercise for health and longevity.  I am convinced that excessive exercise does impair health and shorten life - I do not need any research to tell me this.  I can see it around me.  However, in case you think I am contradicting my own behaviour which is as a practitioner of extreme, intense exercise, I exercise as such with an intense awareness of the dangers of doping so and take preventive measure.  How I do this will have to be the topic of a future article.

The "Lift and Press"

People often ask me "What is the single most important exercise to do daily for health?"

Other than walking briskly, there is one exercise that is most beneficial: The "Life and Press".

One of the characteristics of getting old and fragile is the slumping of posture, often to the point where the person may still appear to be slumped in a lounge chair, even when standing.  Incidentally, this slumped posture is now quite common in our children.  What will they be like at 60 years!

The lift and press exercise - the lifting of a modest weight from the ground to press it and hold it above the head, is the best exercise one can do daily to counter the effects of gravity, weak muscles and sloppy postural habits.  Of course there are more; but let's just do the lift and press.

As a general rule of thumb, choose a weight that can be lifted and pressed above your head 15-20 times in a continuous rhythm.  If you can do more than 20 repetitions, increase the weight a wee bit.  Done once a day, five days a week will do the job.  You do not need expensive weights: Some cans in the pantry inside a couple of pillow cases that are then knotted shut will be sufficient.

The bonus of this exercise is it counts towards your daily exercise quota of 30 minutes!

A strong, upright posture - one of the keys to health.
The "Lift and Press", starting early in life and
continuing this single exercise daily forever.
"Fit Kiwi" doing her daily lift and press dozen

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