Get Daily Exercise Despite Inconsistent Study Results
Scientific studies can be our best friend in the world of medicine. Well thought out studies with verifiable results can mean the difference between figuring out how to treat certain illnesses and injuries and having no clue whatsoever. But scientific studies can also be a problem in as much as inconsistent results may adversely affect a patient’s willingness to do something as simple as getting daily exercise. We encourage our patients to get daily exercise despite inconsistent study results.
An example of an inconsistent study is a recently published article found in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). According to this study, 15 minutes of moderate exercise (like walking, for example) is the minimum amount of person should be getting daily. This is supported by multiple studies published in the past that have shown walking reduces the risks of a number of different maladies. But the same JAMA study suggested that 8 minutes of slightly more intense exercise is better.
This study links 8 minutes of daily exercise like cycling and running to reduced mortality. The greater the intensity of the exercise, the more benefit it is said to provide. Researchers went on to say that exceeding the 8 minute recommended time is also not unhealthy. A person could exercise 20 or 30 minutes per day with no adverse consequences.
It Depends on Who You Ask
It’s interesting to note that patients will get different information about daily exercise depending on who they ask. A GP might tell them one thing while a cardiologist says something entirely different. Both are contradicted by the personal trainer. The opinions on daily exercise vary so much that it can be hard to know what you should do.
In the interest of clearing up some of the confusion, here’s a general rule: get at least some daily exercise that involves having to make a moderate effort.
If you walk for 15 minutes a day at a very casual pace that neither causes you to break a sweat nor increases your heart or breathing rate, it is still better than sitting completely immobile on the couch all day. But it’s also not providing you with the maximum benefit you could derive from exercise. Just by increasing the intensity or distance of your walk – enough to actually require moderate effort from you – you will be improving your health significantly.
Remember: Use It or Lose It
I am not as interested in determining which studies are correct as I am in making sure my patients get daily exercise. I look at it from the standpoint of “use it, or lose it”. Let’s face it; the human body is a wonderful machine that requires routine maintenance in order to continue operating at peak efficiency. One of the most important maintenance tasks we can perform is daily exercise.
When you exercise, you force your body to maintain itself to keep up. The opposite is also true. When you don’t exercise, your body has no reason to keep itself in top shape. You either use the body nature gave you by exercising appropriately, or you gradually lose functionality. And with lost function comes measurably poorer health.
There is a place for pharmacology and invasive medical intervention. But I’m a firm believer that most of us could minimize the need for these kinds of things if we simply took better care of ourselves. That means eating right, limiting our exposure to unhealthy environments, and getting a sufficient amount of daily exercise through some means that requires us to make an effort.