“If you had to pick one thing to make people healthier as they age, it would be aerobic exercise”
That was said by Professor James Fries who is the founder and Medical Director of Healthtrac as well as a Professor of Medicine at Stanford University.
More academic nonsense?
A study appears to have shown that running on a regular basis can slow the effects of ageing. The study also showed that elderly joggers were half as likely to die prematurely from conditions like cancer than non-runners and that they also enjoyed a healthier life with fewer disabilities.
The research tracked 500 runners in their 50s for more than 20 years, comparing them to a similar group of non-runners. Nineteen years into the study, 34% of the non-runners had died compared to only 15% of the runners.
Both groups became more disabled with age but for the runners the onset of disability started an average of 16 years later. The health gap between the runners and non-runners continued to widen. Running not only appeared to slow the rate of heart-related deaths but there were fewer early deaths from cancer, neurological disease, infections and other causes.
Professor James Fries said: “The study has a very pro-exercise message. If you had to pick one thing to make people healthier as they age, it would be aerobic exercise. The health benefits of exercise are greater than we thought.”
It is easy to criticise results such as the ones shown above but such evaluations, based upon quasi-experimental designs are typically plagued by problems of nonequivalence between the experimental and comparison group prior to the experiment.
For instance, did the “joggers” already have a predisposition towards jogging and general well-being? Did they receive more attention which motivated them – e.g as in the Westinghouse experiment where factory-worker productivity was initially associated with varying light-levels – until it was shown that it was not an increase in the light level which resulted in increased productivity but that the workers’ motivation had been affected by the experiment itself.
The mere fact of someone (the researchers) showing an interest in their output, increased the output.
It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to isolate the effects of the “jogging” programme from the confounding effects associated with the relevant preexisting differences between the groups.
Other figures show more than 90% of people in the UK over 75 fail to meet international guidelines of half-an-hour moderate intensity exercise at least five times a week. That statistic probably applies to the entire population.
And what do we do with our old people here in the United Kingdom? We stick them is homes and they end their days sitting still, staring out of a window or watching television. NHS guidelines say “taking a brisk walk, spending some time doing the gardening or doing a few laps of the local swimming pool on the way home from work” can all improve health.
Good advice – although not very realistic. Is there any evidence of the NHS actually encouraging exercise – apart from issuing reports and edicts? Judging by all those fat-bottomed nurses and alcohol-dependent doctors – No!
On the other hand, researchers from Exeter and Brunel Universities said these activities were unlikely to provide many benefits. “It’s extremely worrying that British adults now believe that a brief stroll and a bit of gardening is enough to make them fit and healthy,”said Dr Gary O’Donovan. “Brisk walking offers some health benefits, but jogging, running and other vigorous activities offer maximal protection from disease.”
Other specialists said the survey results were not surprising, and that few people met the guidelines for moderate exercise.
The Professor of Exercise and Obesity at Leeds Metropolitan, said it was very difficult to formulate a “one size fits all” policy to exercise, as moderate exercise for one would be intense for another. Another one from the Ministry of the Bleedin’ Obvious.
He also stressed that public misunderstandings about exercise could not be blamed solely on the government, as academics themselves were continually formulating new theories.
Firstly, I had no idea that there was such a thing as a Professor of Exercise and Obesity or even something called “Leeds Metropolitan”. Secondly, at least he admitted that they too were at a loss.
Meanwhile, how many people over 65 do we see jogging? As near as damn it – NONE.
Not surprisingly, two more separate and apparently contradictory reports emerged. One report found that walking less than the current guidelines stipulated had significant health benefits; another suggested a minimum of 20 minutes of vigorous exercise three times a week was needed for good health.
In addition, no-one is clear what part exercise really plays in preventing disease.
A Department of Health spokesperson said its guidelines were “based on a comprehensive review of the evidence, carried out by a team of academics and expert advisers. We take a keen interest in new developments in this area, but there are no plans at present to change the existing recommendations for adults.” Great.
There appears to be a new industry which concerns itself with the acquisition of meaningless statistics. For instance, researchers have examined mortality rate data for religious professionals in America and Europe and compared them with the rate for those of the same age, sex and race in the general population. “In almost all the data studied,” the study reported, “the SMR (standardized mortality rate) was below 90 percent, which means that 10 percent fewer clergy died than did ordinary people.”
Ministers, priests, vicars and nuns in general were far less prone than most to ailments such as heart disease and cancer.
What do we do, become a priest or a nun? Is it the altar wine or lack of sex? Classical musicians live a long time – and they spend a lot of their time sitting about. What do we do – learn to play the fiddle? Stick a cello between our legs?? Athletes do not live to any great age and neither do doctors.
From the supine to the mediculous.
No-one really knows what helps people to live to a good active old age. Diet? Exercise? Lifestyle? Genes? Location?
There are hundreds of “gurus” who will tell you how to live forever. Most of them are trying to sell you some sort of potion, food supplement or book. Ignore their botoxed adverts.
I think that before we look at what is going to help you to live longer is to list what is the most likely to kill you. Firstly here is a list which was derived statistically.
For those of you who are so stressed that you will add up the percentages and then worry that they do not add up to 100% – don’t worry!
The list is potentially a long one. These are the main killers and all the other weird and wonderful ways of killing yourself that remain are under the heading “OTHERS” :
Heart Disease 27%
Respiratory Disease 5%
Accidents 4.5% (2% = vehicle-related)
Kidney Disease 2%
Others : 27.5%
The next list consists of only four items because I have tried to simplify what can easily grow into a report or a book. These are the Root Causes which will prevent you from living too long:
Negative emotions or Life distress
Lack of Movement
In 1970, the National Geographic published a report which located the so-called world’s “BLUE ZONES” (Areas or places in the world where people live for an exceptionally long time).
There is also a current study and a book entitles “The BLUE ZONES” by Dan Buettner. These are the areas with the highest average age and incidentally – none of the people jog or engage in any form of violent exercise :
OKINAWA – Philipines. They have a cultural practice of Hari Hachi whereby they restrict their calories. “Eat unil you are 80% full”
HUNZA VALLEY – Pakistan. They primarily eat grains and vegetables and lots of apricots.
VILCAMBAMBA – Southern Ecuador. They primarily eat seeds and nuts and wholegrains and drink their own mineral water.
ABKHAZIA – Southern Russia. They tend to eat less than 2000 calories per day. They never retire and look forward to the respect that they gain when they become old. Their diet is rich in grain and nuts.
There are other groups which enjoy longevity – notably LOMA LINDA in California, a small area of SARDINIA as well as MONGOLIA.
All these people have the following in common:
A Plant-based diet
Moderate physical activity
Legumes (beans, peas, peanuts, lentils etc)
A stress-free old-age
Different groups will claim that it is the Fava beans, high polyphenol wines, nuts, turmeric , chocolate or even a belief in God that keeps them going into their 90s and above.
Some of them eat meat but not in any great quantity – so it is not what we call “vegetarianism”.
They also appear to have a higher-than-average intake of Vitamin E. Vitamin E is found in “yellow” foods as well as : Almonds , Asparagus , Avocado , Nuts , Peanuts , Olives , Seeds , Spinach (and other green leafy vegetables) , Vegetable oils (corn, sunflower, soybean, cottonseed ), Wheat germ.
So for the moment, we research while they live for ever.
Remember just one thing : There are fat people, there are old people but there are few fat old people .