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Exercise, fitness and health

Really, what about exercising and physical activity? Isn't it necessary to maintain health? Why isn't it listed in the health recipe?

It is - as a hidden ingredient. There is a certain ambiguity about physical activity as a health factor. The only scientifically proven method to significantly prolong life is to restrict caloric intake. Mice at 35% caloric intake of what is their ad lib (free feeding) level, have some 50% longer life-span. Similar effect is observed in a number of other critters, from insects to monkeys. Obviously, it requires appropriately reduced physical activity as well. Body burns less and slower, and lasts longer.

 But maximizing the life-span doesn't necessarily imply best overall physical condition. Obviously, minimized physical activity imposed by the minimized caloric intake, will result in not only loss of body fat reserves, but also significant loss of the muscle mass and, with time, bone mass as well. There are some other not-so-swell consequences, listed at the site of the CR (Calorie Restriction) Society.

So, take your pick: either longest possible life, or best overall health... While physical activity, in general, is definitely needed for optimum health, the level of activity should be adjusted so that

it burns the excess of calories

over you basal metabolic needs and regular activities.

Thus, it is contained in replenishing your body with what it needs to maintain health. Obviously, high caloric intake would require high level of physical activity, which doesn't seem to be best strategy for living close to your biological maximum. Lower caloric intake, combined with regular, light physical activity, is probably the best bet. Low energy exercises, like yoga and qigong - which to some extent also incorporate meditation - may be the best exercise form, especially as you go past your prime, or are too weak for some more vigorous form.

Benefits of exercising are many: from strengthening the muscle tissue and improving posture, to stimulating metabolism, lymphatic system and elimination, to strengthening cardiovascular and respiratory system, oxidizing tissues and cells, and so on. Sweating can greatly help detoxication, and running exercises will also increase your bone density. Very important benefit of exercising is stress relief.

There are many forms of exercise to choose from - walking, dancing, stretching, jogging, calisthenics, isometrics, weight lifting, sports - you name it. The main rule is: in order to make it effective, it needs to be done on a regular basis. Make it light, fun and pleasant, and it will become something you'll be looking forward to.