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Jul. 29 2010 - 1:20 pm | 113 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

New studies on staying fit, living long

Staying fit in summertime — you know, those steamy days when lying on a raft in the middle of the lake seems a proper choice for the strenuous life — isn’t always easy. But as it turns out, new studies indicate it’s both doable and critical. Plus, it can keep you alive. According to a newly published study, just getting off the raft and walking around a bit can reduce your risk of early death. This just in from Science Daily:

A new study by researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), Cambridge University and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden has found that even light or moderate intensity physical activity, such as walking or cycling, can substantially reduced the risk of early death.

The study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, combined the results from the largest studies around the world on the health impact of light and moderate intensity physical activity. It showed that the largest health benefits from light or moderate activity (such as walking and cycling) were in people who do hardly any physical activity at all. Although more activity is better — the benefits of even a small amount of physical activity are very large in the least physically active.

The good news from this study is that you don’t have to be an exercise freak to benefit from physical activity. Just achieving the recommended levels of physical activity (equivalent to 30 minutes daily of moderate intensity activity on 5 days a week) reduces the risk of death by 19% [95%confidence interval 15% to 24%], while 7 hours per week of moderate activity (compared with no activity) reduces the risk of death by 24% (95% CI 19% to 29%).

(Of course, if you get off the raft and jog around the lake, the benefits rise. Who knows, there could be a further reduction in the risk of death, as long as you aren’t jogging in traffic. Over on his Coloradoan blog, senior runner Jon Sinclair points out that runners of a certain age — Sinclair introduced this writer to the “pre-boomer” designation — have been at it long enough to have proved this point: “Everyone stand up. All of you that began running after 1976 can sit down. Those that still are standing can smirk proudly at those sitting. I’m sure there aren’t many of you standing. For us ‘pre-boomers,’ or pbers, the current state of running is amazing and we should all feel happy about it.”)

But the best news of all, especially for those drawn to summertime laziness, is just in from the SportsGeezer. It is the suggestion that if you invite a bunch of friends to join you on the raft, possibly planning for cocktails and dinner later, you might do just as well skipping the walk/jog altogether:

More powerful than exercise, better than giving up smoking, extensive social networks have been shown to increase longevity by 50 percent. The Scientific American reports on research conducted at Brigham Young University that reviewed the results from 148 studies—which included a total of 308,849 participants—going back to the early 20th century. Most studies assessed survival in contrast to mortality from all causes. Sciam reports that the analysis also assessed what kind of studies best predict a person’s survival. Questionnaires that had asked participants at least a few in-depth questions about various social connections (such as, “To what extent are you participating or involved in your social network?” or “To what extent can you count on other people?”) were more effective at pinpointing a person’s overall risk of mortality from all causes than those that simply determined if a person was single or married or lived with at least one other person. The researchers found that when the questions delved deeper, complex social networks increased survival rates by 91 percent.

Prospects for a pleasant summer and a long life just went up.


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    About Me

    I’ve been a writer since probably before you were born: newspapers, magazines, trade publications and websites beginning with Beliefnet.com’s start-up issue. Working as a hospice volunteer and with AIDS groups led to a 1999 book Dying Unafraid (still in print and apropos) and more involvement with end-of-life causes. This is how to end any cocktail party conversation: “I write a lot about end-of-life issues.” So with Boomers and Beyond I’m working backwards and sideways and wherever concerns of these generations lead. I grew up in beautiful downtown Ashland, VA) and migrated through Atlanta eventually to San Francisco where I live with my final husband, Bud (my college Senior Dinner Dance date before we lost track of each other for 37 years.) Manhattan/Asheville/Atlanta kids, parents of my five flawless grandchildren, keep me attuned to Boomerhood. Full rather braggadocio disclosure: the Manhattan daughter Sandy is married to T/S super-contributor Miles O’Brien.

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