You’ve heard the saying, “Move it or lose it,” but what, exactly, are you “losing” if you aren’t moving? It turns out that by not exercising regularly, you may very well be losing years off your life!
Studies have shown that regular physical activity can increase your lifespan by several years but don’t stop there. Regular exercise can improve your mood, help you sleep better, boost your immune system, improve your sex life, and give you a little extra pep in your step so you aren’t crashing at the end of a hard day.
How much exercise do you need?
But what is the best amount and type of exercise for longevity? Researchers found that people who followed the minimum guidelines for physical activity—150–300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity, or 75–150 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity activity—reduced their risk of early death by as much as 21%. But people who exercised from two to four times the minimum could lower their risk by as much as 31%. Whoa!
Sitting is the new smoking
It’s not just formal exercise that can impact your healthspan and lifespan. Studies have shown that sedentary behavior, such as sitting for prolonged periods, can be just as harmful to your health as smoking!
Daily movement and even fidgeting can help burn calories and improve your overall health. In one study, people who fidgeted 30% more calories than those who sat still all day. If you aren’t a fidgeter, taking frequent breaks from sitting to add movement is fun and easy. Take a walk while taking work calls. Do some squats in between Zoom calls. Minor adjustments to your day can result in significant improvements in your health over time.
Benefits of exercise:
Regular exercise has numerous benefits for various systems in the body, including the brain, muscles, bones, heart, immune system, sexual systems, and endocrine systems.
In the brain, exercise has been shown to improve cognitive function and reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Studies have found that regular physical activity can increase the size of the hippocampus, an important part of the brain for memory and learning. One study found that individuals who engaged in regular aerobic exercise had a 30% reduced risk of developing dementia.
Exercise is essential for maintaining muscle mass and bone density, especially as we age. Weight-bearing activities such as running, jumping, and resistance training can help to increase muscle mass and bone density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. Studies have found that resistance training can increase muscle mass in older adults by 2-8%, and improve muscle strength by 30-50%.
Regular physical activity also has a significant impact on the cardiovascular system. Exercise can help to lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and reduce the risk of heart disease. Studies have found that regular aerobic exercise can reduce the risk of heart disease by 30-40%.
The immune system is also positively impacted by regular exercise. Research has found that regular physical activity can help to improve the body’s ability to fight off infections and illnesses. Studies have found that regular exercise can increase the number of immune cells in the body, such as natural killer cells, which help to fight off infections and cancers.
Regular physical activity also benefits the endocrine system, which controls the body’s production and release of hormones. Exercise can help to improve insulin sensitivity, which is important for preventing and managing diabetes. Studies have found that regular exercise can reduce the risk of diabetes by 30-50%.
Lastly, regular physical activity has been shown to affect the sexual system in both men and women positively. Exercise can improve sexual function, reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction, and improve sexual satisfaction. Studies have found that regular aerobic exercise can improve sexual function in men by 30-50% (and we suspect women get a similar improvement).
At HOP, we’re BIG believers in movement. Below you’ll find Action Steps you can implement today to start your daily movement practice. If you want more, try out our Lightning Strikes, which will help you level up your exercise game even more.
- Strength training for 30 minutes at least three days a week. This can include body-weight exercises like squats, pushups, and tricep dips, or a full-out gym-style workout.
- Walk, hike, swim, bike, or do moderately intense movement for 30 minutes five days a week. Intensity should be high enough to break a sweat.
- Move throughout the day, even when you’re working! Fidget, walk, dance, squat, bop, and sashay. Move it or lose it, Baby!
- Take a 10-20 minute walk after meals, especially meals high in carbohydrates. Walking after eating can reduce the insulin spike associated with high-sugar or high-carbohydrate meals.
- Get a fitness tracker that tells you your heart rate. Popular examples include watches by Apple, Fitbit, and Garmin as well as the Whoop band and Oura ring.
- Learn how to calculate your maximum heart rate and what the five different heart rate zones feel like in your body. Here is an article to get you started.
Consistency is key when it comes to exercise. You don’t have to go all-out every time you work out, but it’s essential to make a commitment to regular physical activity. Consistency trumps intensity, and commitment is not feelings. You can’t always feel motivated to exercise, but it’s important to make it a regular part of your routine.
In addition, the benefits of physical activity are cumulative and long-lasting, meaning that the more you put in, the more you’ll get out. Building your better tomorrow starts with taking care of your body today. So, make exercise a regular part of your life, and you’ll feel better and give yourself the gift of a longer, healthier life.
To learn more, visit Hopbox.life and take the first step towards a happier, healthier, and more fulfilling life.
By Amy Killen, MD
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