I was wondering what is the SINGLE biggest thing to improve health. So I googled and I surfed and I read and I discovered this fantastic picture board you tube video by Dr. Mike Evans. I watched it and I transcribed it! The original You Tube clip is 9 minutes long and has been viewed by almost 5 million people. It’s worth a look at here, but if you prefer, here’s the transcription…
What is the single best thing you can do today for your health?
Dr. Mike was looking for what has the biggest impact on your life and also what has the biggest return on your investment? What would make the biggest difference to your health? He did his research and he found this one thing that worked for so many different health problems.
- People with knee arthritis who received 1 hour of this treatment three times a week reduced their rates of pain and disability by 47%.
- In older patients doing this reduced progression to dementia and Alzheimers by around 50%
- Patients at high risk of diabetes and coupled with other interventions implement this reduced progression to frank diabetes by 58%
- Post menopausal women who had 4 hours per week had a 41% reduction in the risk of hip fracture.
- It reduced anxiety reduced by 48% in a big men analysis.
- People suffering from depression, 30% were relieved by a low dose of this. When the dose was increased, the depression reduced in 47% of the patients.
- It is the number one treatment of fatigue.
- They followed 10 000 Harvard Graduates over 12 years. 23% of those who got this intervention had a lower risk of death than those who didn’t. Overall, this single treatment increases quality of life.
So WHAT IS IT?
The medicine is EXERCISE – particularly WALKING (not triathlons)
You spend most of your day ‘couch’surfing, sitting, sleeping.
The best thing you can do for your health is spend half an hour being active, preferably an hour and if you can do that you will receive all the benefits described above.
Taking a quick walk through the literature – Steven Blair – professor at University of South Carolina, looked at this in the Aerobic Centre Longitudinal Study which follow of over 50000 men and women over time. He looked at the “Attributal Fractions” which is the guestimate in the number of deaths in a population which would have been avoided if that specific risk factor had been erased, so smoker vss non smoker…couch potato verses daily walker…
He found the biggest risk factor was Low Fitness. Low Fitness was the STRONGEST PREDICTOR OF DEATH.
Low fitness strongest predictor of deathMost of the trials we see, to be honest, are funded by Pharma or other companies because they have a drug for hypertension or high cholesterol or diabetes. We rarely see fitness thrown into the mix so it’s nice to see this trial. Blair’s work is interesting because it also included another trial looking at obesity.
What he found was two things. One is obesity and no exercise – that’s a VERY BAD combination and that’s where we saw many of the negative consequences of obesity from a health point of view, but if the obese person is active, if they didn’t have the weight loss, but were active and obese that was much much better that the exercise ameliorated much of the negative consequences of obesity.
So if exercise is a medicine, what is the dose? When I think of dose, I think of how long, how often & how intense. I’m going to give you a slightly mixed message, but essentially more activity is better, but I must say that the rate of return seems to decline after 20 to 30 minutes per day. So if you are being active less than 150 minutes a week, or more if you are a child (an hour a day if you are child) my flag goes up in the clinic.
My personal take on this is that literature draws with a very broad brush, so we see big differences when somebody goes from not doing anything to doing something and after that the return is more granular, so if we took the Nurse’s Health Study, women who went from zero activity to just one hour a week of activity reduced their heart disease rate by almost half. You can break it down, so it can be 10 minutes, 10 minutes, 10 minutes, if you want to do 30 minutes of exercise, so it can be broken into 3. Higher intensity is equivalent to less time than with lower intensity, but I think obviously the clinical parole is mostly thinking about your style and habits and personal cues, so if you’re only going to do it if it’s pre-booked with friends – a couple who take a half hour walk every morning or evening to organise their life. A dog is a great walking coach.
The data is showing 67% of dog walkers achieved 158 minutes a week just with the dog walking. And finally, of course your commute – getting off at a stop early, taking the stairs and so on.
So thinking about that I’m just going to walk you through some quick slices of the literature:
1. The first one comes from Japan in the 1990s, Japan required all employers to conduct health screens for their employees. And so a large gas company in Japan called Osaka used this to answer a great question, “If a person’s walk to work was longer did that reduce their chance of serious health problems?” In this example, high blood pressure. And what they found in under a 10 minute walk, there was no difference. In a 11-20 minute walk, 12% reduction in the rates of high blood pressure. In an over 21minute walk, a 29% reduction in high blood pressure. The authors calculated that for every increase in 10 minutes in your walk to work there is a 12% reduction in the likelihood of getting high blood pressure.
2. The second exhibit is looking at stents – this is something we commonly do in medicine. Doctors put a stent in a blocked artery to keep it open. A German researcher named Rainer Hambrecht looked at this with about 100 cardiac patients. He got half the group to exercise and by that I mean 20 minutes a day on an exercise bicycle and once a week a 60 minute aerobics class. The other half got the high tech stent & continued with normal activity. After 1 year 88% of the exercisers were event free compared to 70% of the people who got a stent. Both worked, but I find it incredible that the low tech made a bigger difference. You have to remember that the stent fixes just one part of the heart.
3. The next way to think about it is the reverse – what I call sitting disease. We know being sedentary is bad for your health but a researcher named Lennert Veerman wanted to quantify this and he did so in Australia in a big study they did there. They found compared with persons who watched no TV, those who spent a lifetime average of 6 hours a day watching TV can expect to live about 5 years less. That’s incredible. I think who watches 6 hours TV a day? It turns out the average adult in the USA spends about 5 hours a day watching TV or screens! I find this fascinating that we never think of the TV as something that is bad for our health, but clearly it is a powerful as many other risk factors for chronic disease.
So I’m just going to leave you with two quotes. The one is Gerry Garcia the lead singer for the Grateful Dead. He said, “Somebody has to do something, it is just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us”. I think that’s true – in some ways it has to be us. Hippocrates said “Walking is man’s best medicine.”
TAKE HOME MESSAGE:
Can you limit your sitting and sleeping to just 23 1/2 hours a day?
(Written and Presented by Dr Mike Evans)
Psalm 32:8 goes very well with this:
The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.
Keep the smile going and get out in the sunshine for a walk!
God bless you!
In His Grip,