Exercising Body and Mind

I’ve been writing lately about some of the strategies that support university students’ success by helping all the hard work and studying pay off.

In a New York Times blog, Gretchen Reynolds writes about “The Right Dose of Exercise for a Longer Life.” She gives details on a large study published recently in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The study examined 14 years of data from over 661,000 adults. Here’s what death records for that period showed:

“They found that, unsurprisingly, the people who did not exercise at all were at the highest risk of early death.

But those who exercised a little, not meeting the recommendations but doing something, lowered their risk of premature death by 20 percent.

Those who met the guidelines precisely, completing 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, enjoyed greater longevity benefits and 31 percent less risk of dying during the 14-year period compared with those who never exercised.

The sweet spot for exercise benefits, however, came among those who tripled the recommended level of exercise, working out moderately, mostly by walking, for 450 minutes per week, or a little more than an hour per day. Those people were 39 percent less likely to die prematurely than people who never exercised.”

Wow. Reducing your chance of dying by 31% just with 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week! That seems worthwhile, to say the least. Most of the adults in the study were middle-aged, so the exact figures may differ from those of the average reader of my blog. Nevertheless, the results are striking.

University students can become intensely focused on their studies, often to the point where they ignore their health. They don’t sleep right, eat right, or exercise. For a few days before your finals this might make sense, but not over the long term. After all, we work hard in university to build a successful future, and nothing can derail your future plans more quickly than dying.

Keep in mind, also, that exercise doesn’t just reduce your chances of death and illness; it also gives you energy, helps reduce stress and keep you calm, and improves focus.

And don’t abandon your plan to exercise because you’re more in the mood for a walk than something more strenuous. Another recent JAMA Internal Medicine study that Reynolds comments on explains that moderate exercise like walking will give you most of the longevity benefit from exercise. Try to have about one-third of your exercise time be “vigorous” if you can, but remember that a nice brisk walk is still doing a great job of helping you stay healthy.

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