Being there for our loved ones and enjoying as many special moments together as we can — that’s what life really is all about. Keeping your body happy and healthy to help you live a longer, fuller life is one of exercise’s biggest benefits. Therefore, it’s great news that research published in 2012, which studied more than 650,000 people, found that 150 minutes of moderate exercise (or about half hour five days a week) increases your life span by 3.4 years. (14)
“Inactivity is associated with increased risk for a number of cancers, including colon and breast cancer,” McCleary says. “Exercise has been linked with a decreased risk of developing cancer, death from cancer, and recurrence of certain cancers.” The suggested mechanisms at play include exercise’s beneficial effects on the immune and surveillance systems that detect and kill cancer cells, improved cardio-respiratory status, improved hormonal profiles, weight maintenance, and other beneficial metabolic effects, he says.
It zaps anxiety. Ever notice that you can start a workout feeling stressed and anxious, and end it feeling good? It isn't in your head. Or, actually, it is: According to a new study from Princeton University, exercise appears to change the chemistry of the brain by causing the release of GABA, a neurotransmitter that helps quiet brain activity and minimize anxiety. The study found that people who ran regularly had a low reaction to stressful situations, even if they hadn't run in more than 24 hours.
“Telomeres are a good index of cellular aging,” says study author Larry Tucker of Brigham Young University. “In short, because of lifestyle differences, some adults are older biologically than their chronological age, while others are younger. Given the same chronological age, adults who engage in high levels of physical activity have nine years’ less cell aging than sedentary individuals. That is substantial and meaningful.”
The answer, then, is a short workout, right? Something that takes, say, 20 minutes tops. You’ll usually be able to squeeze that in between punching out at work and getting ready for your evening activities. But here’s the rub: It may only take you 20 minutes to train, but it takes 10-15 minutes (at least) to drive to the gym, five minutes or so to get in and out of the locker room, then 10-15 minutes to drive back home. You’re talking at least 45 minutes for the whole deal, but probably more like an hour-plus.
If you cannot hold the starting position, modify it by dropping to your knees, keeping your arms and shoulders straight. Keep your head in alignment with your back and lower your chest towards the floor. Your elbows should be tucked into your sides as you hover over your fingertips. It’s completely fine if you can only lower your body a few inches. The more often you do tricep push ups, the easier they become.
Emerging research suggests that it doesn’t take much movement to get the benefits. “We’ve been interested in the question of, How low can you go?” says Martin Gibala, an exercise physiologist at McMaster University in Ontario. He wanted to test how effective a 10-minute workout could be, compared to the typical 50-minute bout. The micro-workout he devised consists of three exhausting 20-second intervals of all-out, hard-as-you-can exercise, followed by brief recoveries. In a three-month study, he pitted the short workout against the standard one to see which was better. To his amazement, the workouts resulted in identical improvements in heart function and blood-sugar control, even though one workout was five times longer than the other. “If you’re willing and able to push hard, you can get away with surprisingly little exercise,” Gibala says. (For more on the 1-minute workout read this.)
In addition to its other benefits, regular exercise helps older people remain independent by improving functional ability and by preventing falls and fractures (see also Exercise in the Elderly). It can strengthen the muscles of even the frailest older person living in a nursing or retirement home. It tends to increase appetite, reduce constipation, and promote quality sleep.
Exercise acts as a temporary diversion to daily stresses and it improves self-esteem. Increased core temperature during exercise may lead to reduced muscle tension and favourable alterations in brain neurotransmitters. Mood improvements may also occur due to the increased secretion of endogenous (internal) opiates, e.g. endorphins. Psychological changes may occur because of changes in norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin, all hormones which can affect mood and anxiety levels.
HOW TO DO IT: Assume a staggered squat position with your right leg forward (heel flat) and your left leg staggered behind on its toes, so that the front of your foot is aligned with your right heel. Push your hips back and down as far as you can while staying upright throughout the movement. Walk forwards taking short, choppy steps for 30 to 60 seconds.
Use small weights to do weighted punches. Pick up a small, 1 or 2 pound weight in each hand and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Bring your hands up in front of your face with your palms facing each other. Punch your right fist forward without locking your arm, then quickly pull it back as you shoot your left fist upward. Alternate the exercise this way for 60 seconds, as fast as you can.
Whether we’re fully conscious of it or not, we’re always looking for how to be happy. And exercise is one of the most obvious steps to take, as it’s not a coincidence that you feel better after a good workout: It’s science. A Penn State University study found that people who exercised, whether it was a mild, moderate or vigorous workout, had more pleasant feelings than those who didn’t. (1)