Jayney's Blog

Sedentary Lifestyles and Ageing

One of the easiest ways of staving off the problems associated with ageing is through exercise – and, in particular, not leading a sedentary lifestyle.  In fact, a growing body of research shows that long periods of physical inactivity, and particularly sitting, raise your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity. British researchers have linked prolonged periods of sitting to a greater likelihood of disease – with the shocking caveat that the damage caused by these long periods of sitting were not offset by exercise – including strenuous exercise. Australian researchers reported that each hour spent watching TV is linked to an 18% increase in the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease – perhaps because that time is spent sitting down.

We are Meant to Move

Our bodies evolved in the way that they have in order to facilitate movement – we are ‘walking’ creatures and we developed this way so that we could more easily wander long distances to forage for sustenance.

There is strong evidence that movement can stave off and, in many cases, reverse the diseases that we associate with ageing, including heart and vascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancers, dementias, neurological diseases, and more. In fact, movement is one of the key factors in halting and even reversing the process of ageing, thus lowering our biological age and increasing both our life-span and our ‘health-span’ – whilst resisting and even reversing degenerative diseases.

Exercise and Ageing – the Hormonal Perspective:

As you reach your 30s and beyond, your levels of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) begin to drop off quite dramatically, which triggers a phenomenon called ‘somatopause’. This is part of what drives your aging process. You start putting on body fat – especially abdominal fat and losing muscle; you become more tired and lethargic, and the “middle age spread” sets in.

It is believed that most people over 30 have dramatically low levels of HGH because they begin leading increasingly sedentary life styles. However, exercise and movement optimises the production of growth hormones.

The higher your levels of growth hormone, the healthier and stronger you’re going to be. And the longer you can keep your body producing higher levels of HGH, the longer you will experience robust health and strength.

Types of Anti-Ageing Exercise Proven to Increase Production of HGH and Rewind Our Biological Clocks:

Doing everything else right – meditating, de-stressing, eating the right foods, etc. without exercise – is like ‘one-hand clapping’. All researchers agree that by exercising, you can limit bone and muscle loss. In fact, studies have found that exercise can make your cells the equivalent of 9 years younger.  But what is the right kind of exercise for you?

Increasingly, research is looking at the amazing effects of High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) whereby one intersperses intense exercise with moderate exercise within one short training session.  HIIT is an excellent way of increasing HGH – but only if you avoid carbohydrates for two hours after the session (as soon as you take carbs into your body the HGH ‘tap’ is turned off).  HIITs are hard – and pretty advanced – but fear not – a very recent meta-analysis (overview) of studies in exercise shows that just 30 minutes of moderate exercise can prevent 24 chronic diseases.

How About Sexercise as an Anti-Ageing Strategy?

Yes, yes yes! Your life expectancy may be dramatically increased through having more sex. In fact, in one study, which just looked at men demonstrated that guys who experience a high frequency of orgasms showed a 50% reduction in mortality and issues around sex and ageing are being taken more and more seriously by the medical community.  For women, sex increases levels of HGH which, as we have seen, is akin to the elixir of youth.

Why sex should be linked to life expectancy is something of a mystery. Of course, it could be that healthier people are more likely to have more sex and that the findings linking sex to life expectancy are reflecting this, but I think there is more to it.

It is well known in anti-ageing research circles that that having good relationships and being positive in outlook are linked to longer life expectancies. Consultant neuropsychologist at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital, Dr David Weeks, has made a 10 year study of the subject has found that improving the quality of one’s sex life can help a person to look between four and seven years younger.  Dr Weeks explains: ‘A good sex life leads to greater contentment, significant reductions in stress, better sleep and, in men, an increase in testosterone output.”  Dr Weeks’ study also concluded that people who look younger are more altruistic, confident and have more intellectual activity. Dr Weeks questioned more than 3,500 volunteers during a decade of research into the secrets of youthful appearance and behaviour. He concluded that genetic factors were only 25 per cent responsible for youthful looks while behaviour was 75 per cent the cause. And one of the main behavioural factors was sex as part of a long-term relationship.

The take-home message is that whatever your age – you must exercise – gently, or moderately – or even do HIITs if you are fit enough. But – be mindful of the pitfalls of leading an otherwise sedentary lifestyle: even people who exercise seriously lose the benefits of this if they then sit down for long periods at their desks or in front of the TV. Keep moving. Be active. Consider walking, tai chi, qi gong, yoga and a really healthy sex-life.

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