The Sage Vita lifestyle advocates exercise as the key to achieving active ageing where people could maintain their functional capacity throughout life course. Experts agree that exercise is crucial for good health and the benefits from exercise are tremendous.
The US Mayo Clinic, for example, highlights seven benefits. Exercise controls weight, combats health conditions and disease, improves mood, boosts energy, promotes better sleep, puts the spark back into your sex life, and exercise can be fun
The UK National Health Service says that exercise is the “miracle cure” that can help you lead a healthier and even happier life. People who do regular exercise have a lower risk of many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and some cancers. Exercise can also boost self-esteem, mood, sleep quality and energy, as well as reducing risk of stress, depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
With these awesome benefits, you would expect everyone to be exercising and yet that is not so. Exercise is not always the first option. Many of us prefer to seek other options and even to pay for the pills, potions and services that we believe will keep us younger and healthier. There are indeed things we could do to complement exercise, but exercise is the starting point and there is no alternative.
Perhaps the case has not yet been made convincingly enough that there are sound reasons for the benefits of exercise, and that this is not merely a matter of opinion. The case for exercise can be made on scientific ground.
Younger next year
One of the best books making the case for exercise is Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge. I recommend that you read this book if you are committed to achieve active ageing.
The book explains how exercise is the fountain of youth and could make you younger next year. The basic thesis is as follows:
- There is a fundamental distinction between ageing and decay. Ageing is inevitable but it is a slow process. Decay is optional. This means that most functional ageing is optional as well.
- Biologically there is only growth and decay. Your body looks to you to choose between them. In our youth we have a free ride on growth. Starting in our 40’s, our body moves into a “default to decay” mode.
- To change decay back to growth, we have to override the default mode by sending out different signals to our body and mind. The signals start with exercise.
- When we exercise fairly hard, we stress our muscles, draining them of energy stores and even injuring them slightly. This type of injury is called adaptive micro-trauma and is critical to our growth and health. It is the signal to our body that it needs to repair the damage and also make the muscles stronger i.e. making them “younger”.
- The way it works is that enzymes and proteins from the exercised muscles leak into the blood stream, where they start a powerful chain reaction of inflammation. White blood cells are drawn to the scene to begin the demolition process. Once the demolition is done, growth and repair take over.
- In essence: Decay triggers growth. Exercise turns on inflammation, which automatically turns on repair. The challenge is for the body to regulate inflammation in order to keep decay in a healthy balance with growth. The right amount of inflammation (from exercise) automatically produces growth. Too little (a sedentary lifestyle) or too much (chronic stress) turns off growth, leaving only the background decay.
I hope this will convince you to exercise regularly if you are not already doing it.