With the return of warmer temperatures and brighter skies, I hope you’ve had a chance to enjoy some physical activity—such as swimming, walking, and hiking—outside in Nature.
But there’s no need to overdo it by following a strict, boring, and harmful regimen of “excess-ercise,” as I call it. Not only can it harm your joints, heart, and kidneys, it’s also completely unnecessary.
In fact, according to a new study published in the British Medical Journal, following a high-intensity exercise regimen doesn’t improve longevity any more than just keeping a light-to-moderate baseline of healthy activity during the week.
Let’s take a closer look…
High-intensity training no more beneficial than normal physical activity
For this new study, researchers studied the effect of exercise intensity on all-cause mortality rate (your risk of dying from any cause). And, as I always report, this is the one finding to which we should always pay the most attention, as statisticians can’t manipulate it. (Either a person dies or they don’t.)
So, at the start of the study, researchers randomly divided more than 1,500 healthy, active, older adults living in Norway into three groups.
The first group participated in two sessions of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) each week for five years. The second group participated in two sessions of moderate-intensity continuous training (MICT) each week for five years. And the third group could do their own thing…and simply agreed to follow national guidelines for getting healthy weekly activity.
After five years, there were some small differences—amounting to just 1 or 2 percentage points—in all-cause mortality rates between the HIIT and MICT groups.
However, on average, there was ZERO difference in mortality rates between the people in the two exercise groups and the people in the control group. Plus, there was zero difference between rates of cardiovascular disease and cancer among the three groups.
Here’s what these findings ultimately mean…
Just aim for 140 to 150 minutes total each week
Clearly, simply following your own sensible, personalized exercise program is just as good as adopting a strict, slavish HIIT or MICT program when it comes to improving longevity and reducing disease risk.
So, in the end, I come back around to the preponderance of scientific evidence that shows you should aim to engage in just 140 to 150 minutes of light-to-moderate exercise each week. This weekly total is the optimal amount for improving your longevity and keeping chronic disease at bay, with the greatest “return on your investment,” so to speak.
In fact, as this study shows, intense exercise routines don’t even move the needle at all. And, on the contrary, overdoing it can cause great harm. (As I often report, excess-ercise can harm your joints and cause stress and strain on the heart, gastrointestinal tract, genito-urinary system, and even the eyes.)
So, rather than adhering to a monotonous, high-intensity, nightmarish exercise regimen, try mixing it up with a variety of light-to-moderate exercises each week. After all, people who engage in a variety of activities each week have better adherence to their exercise program!
I personally recommend working in the yard or on a farm, no matter how small. (Remember, housework and yardwork count toward your weekly total!)
I recently went back to Maryland for a few months to help my daughter with our new granddaughter and to help set up at the new, expanded location for their organic, free-range egg and poultry business.
It turns out, many of the outer suburbs, to which people are fleeing, are identified as “food deserts.” But they also have enough land to grow foods. So, many budding, young farmers and entrepreneurs, like my daughter and her husband, are responding to the increasing demand for clean, organic, locally grown foods. (This weekend, if you’re in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. area, or passing through, please consider stopping by for some organic eggs and other spring treats. Click here for more details, directions, and updates.)
Of course, each year, we hear about people resolving to exercise more. That’s why I provided a few tips for keeping your healthy—and sensible—exercise resolutions throughout 2021 (and beyond) in the January issue of my monthly newsletter, Insiders’ Cures (“The secret to sticking with your New Year’s exercise resolution once and for all”). If you’re not yet a subscriber, now is the perfect time to become one!
“Effect of exercise training for five years on all cause mortality in older adults—the Generation 100 study: randomised controlled trial.” BMJ 2020;371:m3485. doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m3485