I don’t often think of myself as middle aged. But the reality hits me when I look across my desk at patients who I think are far older than me…and they turn out to be far younger.
Now, genetics do play a small role in this. And it isn’t all about how you look, I know. But I’ve always said that aging (at least as far as how you look and feel as you get chronologically older) is optional. The truth is, you could spend your retirement years feeling and looking better than ever before.
This isn’t some empty promise. It’s a viable reality. And I recently came across two studies that demonstrate just how simple the secret is.
These studies showed that you can predict mortality risk in middle age just by looking at three simple measures of physical fitness. And I don’t mean how fast you can run a mile or how many push-ups you can do in 60 seconds.
We’re talking about basic stuff, like grip strength. Or chair rise time (how long it takes you to go from sitting to standing). Or standing bal
ance time (how long you can stand on one leg).
Researchers assessed subjects’ physical capability at 53 years old and followed them for 13 years. And it turns out that subjects who struggled to perform these basic tasks were five times more likely to die than subjects with the highest performance.
Now, you might expect any 53 year old to be able to perform these tasks, well. But you’d be surprised the toll that a sedentary life can take—especially once you hit middle age.
So the message is clear. Even simple things, like practicing getting in and out of a chair, strengthening your grip, or working on your balance can tack years onto your lifespan. And you don’t need a gym membership. This is stuff you can do at the office, through a community yoga or qi gong class, or even while watching TV at night.
The other study I want to share looked at the link between physical activity and disability in older adults with knee arthritis. And researchers found that subjects with the highest levels of light intensity activity were 42 percent less likely to suffer from disability.
Among subjects with more advanced disease, the risk of disability was 47 percent lower with the highest levels of activity. But even doing less still delivered dramatic benefits—a 41 percent reduction in disability. Which just goes to show you, once again, that every little bit counts.
And again, this is from light intensity activity. Which means you could cut your risk of arthritis disability in half, just by getting out of the house and taking a walk every day.
So if you’re a couch potato, let this be your wake up call. Even if you’re not struggling with arthritis at this point, you need to get up and get moving. Because “sitting disease” is no joke.
It’s a very real risk that I’ve mentioned here before. And I touched on the topic in detail this past February in my monthly newsletter, Logical Health Alternatives.
In that issue, I explained how simply sitting at your desk for too long can send your mortality risk soaring. And how you can actually slam the brakes on aging just by taking your workout routine up a notch.
If you missed that article, you can find it in the archives on my website. (Not a subscriber? Sign up today for access to all the past issues.) But in the meantime, just remember that something as simple as moving around during commercial breaks while watching television can make a difference.
As I say to my patients, just do something—anything. Because every second you spend doing nothing has the potential to shave years off your life. But a simple walk around the block could save it.
Simple Measures May Predict Mortality in Middle Age. Medscape. Apr 30, 2014.