Research conducted by an academic at the University of East Anglia (UEA) has found that regular, daily exercise such as cycling and walking, along with giving up smoking – or not starting in the first place – are the most important steps people can take to improve their health.
While studies extolling the benefits of regular exercise are nothing new – earlier this month, we highlighted one conducted in the United States that found that it could stave off the common cold – what this latest research, conducted by analysing the results of 40 separate studies conducted worldwide, does highlight is the range of conditions that an active lifestyle can help prevent.
Leslie Alford, a trained physiotherapist who lectures at UEA, identified 24 separate conditions, including dementia and cancer, that people could lessen the risk of contracting by undertaking regular exercise of as little as 30 minutes a day. He also says that it can also help the reduce the rate at which the body deteriorates with age.
The other side of that coin, however, is that today’s lifestyles, whether that be office workers chained to their desk or couch potatoes sat in front of the TV, are putting their health needlessly at risk, including exposing themselves to premature mortality, if they don’t compensate for those sedentary activities by making sure they undertake exercise.
Mr Alford acknowledges that it can be difficult for people who may have busy work and social commitments to find time to exercise each day, but points towards incorporating exercise into other activities, such as choosing active commuting options including cycling and walking, as a potential solution.
Quoted in the Daily Mail, Mr Alford, whose findings have been published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice, explains: “It appears our bodies have evolved to function optimally on a certain level of physical activity that many of us simply do not achieve in our modern, sedentary lifestyles.”
One specific example he gives is that men involved in physical work, instead of sitting behind a desk all day, are exposed to a lower risk of contracting prostate cancer. Physically active men also display a lower incidence of erectile dysfunction.
“What is clear from the research is that men and women of all ages should be encouraged to be more physically active for the sake of their long-term health,” Mr Alford continues.
He adds that regular moderate exercise, defined as a bike ride or brisk walk 150 minutes a week, or 30 minutes a day, benefits men and women, irrespective of age, and can lower the onset of conditions such as a stroke or heart disease, plus others including type II diabetes, obesity, depression, high blood pressure and osteoporosis.
Mr Alford also says that increasing the amount of exercise, for example to an hour each day, provides further benefits, as does adhering to a healthy diet and avoiding being overweight.
He also highlights a study that found that post-diagnosis, physical activity could boost recovery and improve the expected outcome in the case of patients suffering from certain cancers.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.