How long would you like to live? This week the last remaining member of the Zeigfeld follies died at the age of 106. As they flashed her picture across the TV screen there was one attribute that caught my attention…the sparkle in her eye.
How does one manage to live until 106? I suppose it’s a combination of good genes, healthy lifestyle, close relationships, enthusiasm for living, and a little luck.
In this article I choose to focus on the concept of a healthy lifestyle since this is one component of longevity that is definitely within our control. Is it self-loving to nurture and care for your body? As Sarah Palin might say, “You betcha!”
Enter the “e” word….you might know it as “exercise”. We have a love-hate relationship with exercise. We know the benefits, but it’s time consuming, sweaty, and takes effort. So, what motivates one to undertake the discipline of regular exercise and work it into a day as regularly as eating, sleeping, and watching TV?
Is it the desire for a shapelier body, increased energy, better health, or as a way to forestall the grim reaper?
I choose to focus on the benefits to the heart and to the brain, which, by the way, are physically connected and communicate with each other. As goes the heart, so goes the brain. The Institute of HeartMath has done research documenting the effects of positive thoughts on the heart. Thinking pleasant thoughts while focusing on the heart has been shown to change the heart rhythm into what they call “the zone”. Similarly, exercise, which increases the heart rate, has been a documented vehicle for reducing depression. On a cognitive level, exercise benefits thinking skills. Studies at the University of Illinois led by Arthur F. Kramer found that the three key areas of the brain adversely affected by aging show the greatest benefit when a person stays physically fit. The study in the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences shows anatomical differences in gray and white matter between physically fit and less fit aging humans. These differences were noted in the frontal, temporal, and parietal cortexes. People who took part in the study walked rapidly for 45 minutes three days a week. In this way, they significantly improved the mental processing abilities that decline with age.
On the affective front, exercise affects mood, vitality, alertness, and feelings of well-being. Daily walking is often prescribed for depression because it works. Children who are ADHD benefit from daily exercise. People with anxiety benefit from exercise because exercise promotes deep breathing, which, in turn, activates the calming response of the parasympathetic nervous system.
How much would exercise cost if we had to buy it? Barring the obvious costs of exercise equipment, walking viking style hoodie , gym memberships, etc., the cost might be prohibitive. What if only the wealthy could afford it? What if you had to save to afford it? What if you could never afford it? Alright, some might savor this idea as the perfect excuse not to exercise. However, this is a free resource! It costs nada! I am not writing from atop a pedestal because I, too, struggle with maintaining a regular exercise routine. But as I age, and read the results of the research, it’s looking better and better to me as a cost effective alternative to the medical system.
Happiness, energy, good health, having all of my marbles….what’s not to love?
This, my friends, is self love. Grab those walking viking style hoodie .
Source: University Of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne (Exercise, experience and the aging brain Neurobiology of Aging 23 (2002) 941-955
write by Damian