"The sooner you can get up and get moving, the better you'll heal."
That's what the doctor told Jim (a relative of one of my researchers) after his recent hernia surgery. Sure enough, getting up and down the stairs helped Jim recover well enough to do away with heavy pain medication less than 24 hours after his surgery.
This advice is something I've said for years – staying active and getting up and moving is important, and not just for surgical recovery. It's the absolute best thing you can do for your health.
That's why we were excited to see a set of studies come out recently. Both shed even more light on the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle.
A sedentary lifestyle is a modern luxury. Think about how much time you spend sitting at a desk and on your couch. How many times a day do you get up and move? It turns out, the more you get up, the longer you'll live...
Folks from Columbia University looked at a large cohort of participants – 7,985 adults aged 45 and older. They measured things like smoking and high blood pressure. Then they put accelerometers on the participants for about a week. They followed up with these same folks for four years.
What they found was those who had the lowest levels of physical activity at the start had the highest risk of early death.
Most interesting, the results not only reflected the longest spans of inactivity (13 hours), but also the longest stretches of time each day (periods of 60 to 90 minutes).
They also saw that folks who limited their sitting time during the day to just 30 minutes at a time had the lowest risk of early death.
While the idea of getting up and getting active might not appeal... there's now evidence it also helps reduce prostate-cancer death.
The study, published in European Urology earlier this year, looked at men diagnosed with prostate cancer. Those who engaged in moderate exercise (that's about 30 minutes of exercise five times a week) after diagnosis actually cut their risk of death by cancer by 31%.
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The goal of moderate exercise is to increase your heart rate by about 50%. So understanding where your heart rate is normally will help determine how much you need to increase it. The easiest way is to check your pulse at your wrist. Count for 15 seconds, then multiply that by 4 to get a full minute's measurement.
Now, heart rate targets change based on your age. There's a good formula for finding what's best for you. It involves some math, but it's worth trying. Check it out right here.
These studies highlight the need to stay active both before you get sick and afterward.
If you're not sure how to get started, there are plenty of things to do. In addition to activities like walking, skiing, or swimming, there are plenty of ways to stay active inside your home too.
1) Get up every 30 minutes. This is a good rule for the office as well as at home. Stand or go for a walk for a few minutes. Stretch. If you're watching TV, pause it every 30 minutes and do a few jumping jacks or push-ups.
2) Do some chores. It might sound odd, but housework like cleaning, vacuuming, and cooking burns calories and gets you moving. You'll need to do them for at least 30 to 60 minutes to get real results, but the more effort, the better you'll feel... and the cleaner your home will be.
3) Try a fitness plan at home. If you don't want to buy a fitness DVD, try watching a few online videos on YouTube to get yourself active while staying inside.
As the daylight hours shorten and the cold creeps in, it's easy to spend hours curled up on the sofa watching television. But try to resist that temptation. Break up your days with the suggestions here and take care of your health this winter as well as the rest of the year.
And let us know your favorite way to stay active this winter. Write to us here: [email protected].
What We're Reading...
- Here's a breakdown of that big study.
- Something different: Would you want to feel zero gravity on your next flight?
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Retirement Millionaire Daily Research Team
December 5, 2017