Day 97

Hardly breaking news, the Wall Street Journal ran two articles on the benefits of exercise in yesterday’s Health & Wellness section.

“The Hidden Benefits of Exercise,” and “Why You Should Step Up Your Workout”

If you don’t have a subscription to the WSJ you can’t read the articles online (although you can see the image from their website, above), so I’ll sum them up for you:

The first article cites research from the CDC, Harvard Medical School, JAMA and elsewhere that tells us exercising 30 minutes, 5 times a week, even in moderation, can lower the risk of breast cancer death by up to 50%,  lower risk of colon cancer by 60%, and can decrease depression as effectively as Prozac or behavioral therapy. Women who exercise regularly have been proven to have a 20-30% less chance of developing breast cancer than those who do not.

Perhaps most relevant to the cold and flu season, regular moderate exercise is now known (aka statistically indicated) to boost the immune system and reduce the number of colds, flu, and sick days people experience by up to half.

“‘No pill or nutritional supplement has the power of near-daily moderate activity in lowering the number of sick days people take,’ says David Nieman, director of Appalachian State University’s Human Performance Lab…” and further, “So while reducing obesity is an important goal, ‘the better message would be to get everyone to walk 30 minutes a day,‘ says Robert Saliss, co-director of sports medicine at Fontana Medical Center…”

Walk 30 minutes a day, and live longer. Great message, I love it. It sets a target goal that’s reasonable, and one that just about anyone can carry out with very little change in lifestyle, work hours, or leisure activity. If you absolutely do not have 30 minutes a day to walk around your block or on the treadmill or from the train to your office, I want to know who you are!

But back to the WSJ.

No doubt realizing such an article was likely preaching to the converted, the Journal ran a piece below that one citing Berkeley exercise scientist Dr. Paul Williams’ 20-year studies that show increasing the amount, duration, and intensity of exercise even for long distance runners has dramatic health benefits.  Advocating runners push themselves to regularly do more than 40 miles a week, Williams also advises middle-aged runners increase mileage by about 1.4 miles a week each year to avoid weight gain.  He’s been shunned by many in the public health field, though, because experts fear the message of more more more can discourage people and lead them to do less, little, or nothing at all.

Balance, my friends. And routine. More or less, but stick to it.

Like my friend Jenny, who’s made a simple vow to go to the gym every single day. She has a full-time job, two children, and a nice apartment in NYC to maintain.

“I say to myself I’m going to get on the elliptical for 20 minutes a day. That’s it. If I do more, fine. But if I only do 20 minutes, that’s fine, too.”

And friends, let me say, Jenny’s looking mighty fine since she made that resolution.

Now why don’t they write about that in the Wall Street Journal?