Stopping a health disaster
New Year's Day, after all, is now five months in the rearview mirror and, based on the thinning crowds at the gym, plenty of people haven't stuck to their exercise plan.
That's a tragedy -- a literal tragedy, no hyperbole intended -- because as it turns out, one of the best ways to avoid a life of prolonged disability is regular exercise. A spate of recent studies has served as a reminder of that fact.
For instance, the Washington Post recently ran an article about the work done by doctors at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. They found that life-long exercise programs -- in other words, sticking to that resolution -- can prevent a person's heart from shrinking and stiffening, which, in turn, leads to a healthier, happier life.
This is all stuff that's been drilled into the public for decades, but there is, admittedly, a new twist.
A West Virginia University School of Medicine study published earlier this year found that baby boomers are going to be sicker than their parents, suffering from high blood pressure and obesity in greater numbers.
The boomers also are getting sicker than their parents at earlier ages.
Thanks to modern medicine, however, those sickly baby boomers probably will live longer -- the current life expectancy is nearly 79 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In other words, people are living longer, but they're not living better. A telling example: the West Virginia University study found that boomers are more likely to need a cane or a walker than their parents.
One solution to this problem is frustratingly simple: exercise.
"We'd like to believe that 60 is the new 40, but you can't be that 40-something if you are just sitting on the couch," Susan Reinhard, an official with the AARP's Public Policy Institute, told Bloomberg News.
So how should a person exercise? As the New York Times Well blog reported, 30 minutes a day is all that's needed.
It doesn't even have to be 30 minutes all at once. That time can be broken into chunks: push-ups and sit-ups in the morning, followed by a 20-minute jog -- or even just a brisk walk -- after work.
Considering the alternatives -- decades of taking of heart medications, decades with a walker -- that 30 minutes can start to look pretty manageable.
So maybe it's time to renew that gym membership -- and that New Year's resolution -- today.
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