You Don’t Have To Kill Yourself

It may not up longevity, but workouts will boost life-long health

The medical community has for decades trumpeted the message that even moderate amounts of exercise pay big returns on health. The importance of cutting back on dietary fat has been repeatedly advised as well. Yet, according to a recent study, the average body weight of Americans rose 8 pounds during the last 25 years, and a third of all adult Americans are now seriously overweight. That was an increase in the obesity rate of adult Americans of 8 percent in the last decade of the 20th century.

Amidst this weight gain, exercise participation in several important demographic groups has dropped. Over 50% of all adults report irregular or no leisure time physical activities, according to various studies. Analysis by the federal and provincial centers in Canadaa show that the pattern is established for many by the time they reach high school.

Don’t be one of those statistics! Many studies suggest that women who exercise an average of four hours a week have lower risk of health problems, ad that even one to three hours of exercise a week cuts a risk. Other research have found that regular exercise helps protect people from a number of diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, osteoporosis and more.

Upping the level of exercise intensity should not only benefit physical and emotional health but also may increase one’s likely longevity. In the latest installment of a long-running study of Harvard men in middle age, researchers found that men who reported burning at least 1,500 calories in vigorous exercise each week had a 25 percent lower death rate on average than those whose ecercise consumed no more than 150 calories a week. To reach the exercise levels measured in the Harvard study, a person would have to do one or a blend of the following each week: walk at 4 to 5 mph for 3 hours; play 1 hour of singles tennis three times; swim laps for 3 hours; cycle for 1 hour four times; rollerblade for 2-3 hours.

By the way, don’t expect to improve your odds of living longer if you slack off your workouts. Previous researcj on the Harvard group showed that death rates were higher for former varsity athletes who sat out exercise in later life than for bookish grads who began or kept up exercise programs after they left college, whatever their athletic prowess.

Picking your passion

Bowling may be terrific fun, but as exercise it’s of limited value. Not so bicycling, jogging, and rowing, which rank near the top of the following exercise analysis (by Dr.David R. Stutz, author of 40+ Guide to Fitness.

For weight control, excellent: bicycling, cross-country skiing, jogging and running, rowing and canoeing, swimming. Very good: aerobic dance, basketball, hiking and climbing, martial arts, squash and racquetball, soccer, walking. Good or fair: football, horseback riding, ice skating, roller skating, tennis, volleyball, weight training. Poor: Alpine skiing, baseball, bowling, fishing, golf, sailing.

Many of these sports contribute to stress reduction and muscle training.