Friends in business here in Viet Nam say that if doing business here were any easier, they would have more competition. Everyone prefers an easier way and the internet and magazines are filled with easy diets, easy exercise, easy meditation and so on.
That is the problem with fitness: there is nothing easier than sitting on the sofa. And it’s hard to take the time, maybe drive to the gym, get sweaty and out of breath, work hard, and perhaps be sore the next day.
We do have a wonder drug, but it is not in the drugstore. It can decrease your risk of stroke and heart attack, some common cancers, relieve stress, increase your sense of well-being, and it is very likely to lengthen your life.
It is called “exercise”. How fit are you and how much exercise do you need? Scientifically, we can measure METs – metabolic equivalents: 1 MET is equal to energy expenditure at rest, in kCal/kg/hour. In the cardiac lab, we can measure your peak METs for aerobic fitness level: how efficiently can your body use oxygen?
At each of 5 MET levels, risk of death and cardiovascular risk (stroke and heart attack) go down as METs go up. In fact, low peak exercise capacity proved to be the most reliable predictor of death: more so than hypertension, diabetes, obesity, heart arrhythmia, high cholesterol and even smoking. Poor fitness proved to be the deadliest risk factor of all.
Does exercise actually cut down the risk of illness? The Singapore Ministry of Health actually gives wearable devices to seniors to measure their steps. Each day that they walk over 10,000 steps, they are paid $5 by the government. This costs their health system much less than the illnesses of seniors who are not fit.
Fitness can decrease the risk of Type 2 diabetes or the severity if already present: another savings.
We also find that resistance training (lifting weights or exercises that stress the muscles) is associated with similar outcomes as well as extending mental sharpness in old age and doing as much as calcium supplements for preventing osteoporosis (brittle bones). Osteoporosis – very common in older Asian women – can lead to falls with hip fractures from which many older people die or do not recover well.
We hate to exercise, so how much is enough? The overall time of recommended minimum effective exercise is 150 minutes – less than an hour 3 times a week, a ½ hour walk 5 times a week. Fitness is really a spectrum, beyond this bare minimum. At the maximum, there is much harder work and more time spent for higher levels of fitness.
Fitness is the real wonder drug that may save you from other drugs, illness, and early death. Exercise can save your life while making you happier. I’d buy a case of a drug like that!
The ball is in your court.