For all you gals - use it or lose it!
I always like to have some good news for all you beautiful gals. I got into Yoga and a healthy active life style many moons ago because of all the evidence that exercise prevented premature aging and disease in men. Now I hope that all you women can take heart from all the women's studies evidence and not take the superficial path of esthetic surgery and medication.
The slight extra effort pays off in the long run. I have taken the trouble to sight the studies, not to bore you, but to assure you that the evidence is extremely convincing and keeps pointing in the same direction - as my dear godfather used to say: Use it or lose!
Women health studies
Higher levels of physical activity help with the prevention of physical impairment and cognitive decline, together or separately, not only for men but also for women. Physical inactivity is one of the best predictors of poor aging in women.
Physical exercise for women
A higher quantiity of physical exercise has already been shown to improve conditions such as osteoarthritis, hip fractures and falls, heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, diabetes, obesity and low fitness. Newer studies show the same effects for women and also demonstrate a reduced risk of cognitive decline.
Skeptics claim that of course the healthier people are the ones that exercise to begin with. However, new studies have randomly assigned inactive people to exercise programs and others to a placebo control group. The results show that physical exercise increased the chances of remaining healthy.
A Harvard School of Public Health study reported that among the 13,535 nurses who were healthy when they joined the study in 1986, the physically active ones were still active more than a decade later when they were in their 70's.
In a metanalysis of 52 studies of exercise and colon cancer, researchers concluded that those who were most active were 21 percent less likely to develop the disease, perhaps because activity stimulates the bowel. The risk of breast cancer, is 16 percent lower among physically active women. Exercise may protect postmenopausal women against many different cancers, such as of the endometrium, pancreas, colon and esophagus, by keeping their weight down.
Aerobic exercise is a valuable protector of the heart and blood vessels. It maintains the heart's resistance to work, decreases blood pressure and raises the 'good' HDL-cholesterol. Because of these positive effects of exercise active women have fewer heart attacks and strokes.
Studies of women ages 50 to 79, who walk quickly for 30 minutes a day five days a week, and do some vigorous exercise, reduced their risk of heart attacks and heart disease. Women who walked about one hour a day were 40 percent less likely to have a stroke than women who did not walk an hour a week.
Activity has even been shown to lower the risk of developing diabetes in women of normal weight. A study of 68,907 healthy female nurses found that those who didn't exercise had twice the risk of developing diabetes, and those who who didn't exercise and were obese had 16 times the risk when compared with the normal-weight active women.
Another study of prediabetic men and women that assigned them to modest physical activity (at least 2.5 hours a week) found exercise more effective than the drug metformin at preventing full diabetes.
As you age, one of the greatest benefits of regular physical exercise will be its ability to prevent or delay your loss of cognitive function. A new study of healthy men and women over 55 found that those who were physically active more than three times a week were the least likely to lose cognitive capacity.
An Australian study randomly assigned 170 volunteers with memory problems to a 180 day program of physical activity or to a control group. The exercise group resulted in “a modest improvement in cognition.” Other studies confirm that exercise helps older people maintain short-term memory, which enables them to plan, schedule, multitask, and store information and eventually use it effectively.
So - Use it or Lose it!
A controversial set of lectures
I came across this very intersting series of lectures by Dr. Andy Thomson about the parasitic qualities of religion. His lectures develop a theme that has been developing over the last decade about our human cognitive architecture and its weaknesses, especially for irrational beliefs. The way Dr. Thomson presents his argument helps us to understand the traps we easily fall into by dint of our evolutionary tendencies.
Dr. Andy Thomson
His hypotheses have helped me to understand more about my own behaviour as a young man. Dr. Thomson has also expressed some very interesting ideas about the function of depression. I will share that theme with you in a future blog post.