Healthy Living – Ease, Simplicity, and Pleasure

Thomas More, a 19th century Irish romantic poet wrote, “If you want to have success you must look like you are successful.” 21st century symbols of an accomplished person are an athletic slim stature and a healthy outlook. Healthy living as conscientious lifestyle became a trend. 

However, every person is unique. For some going in for sports is as natural as breathing. For others the need of physical activities is a useful and necessary habit for feeling good, just like brushing teeth or taking a shower. Others set specific goals: get rid of extra pounds, build up the muscles, prepare the body for the beach season, increase one’s body stamina. In order to accomplish these goals they are ready to work hard, sometimes even on the edge of their strength. There are also people who see no need in willingly burdening themselves. They are strangers to athletic competition and skeptically consider healthy living as a modern trend. However, they too want to be healthy, successful, beautiful, and happy. 

It is not easy to change one’s life pattern. One can be fully aware of what needs to be done for personal benefit, however, not everyone succeeds in avoiding sweets, quickly fixed precooked meals, going for a walk in any weather, and doing regular physical exercises. They find many excuses to leave everything as it is.

However, new scientific research indicates that it is not necessary to train intensively, buy an expensive gym membership or set the alarm half an hour early to go jogging in the morning in order to maintain one’s health at a proper level. It may surprise you, but experts have concluded  that physical activity of moderate intensity, such as walking, are more effective for improving one’s physical and emotional state than hard exercises. 

Vivienne Hazzard, a researcher in psychology of the University of Minnesota (USA), says, “Many are used to thinking that intensive exercises like running, are better for us. However, what is much better is what easily fits our everyday lifestyle and what we enjoy doing.” 

Experts suggest several easy ways which will help with optimal benefit for one’s health.

1. Do physical exercises with short intervals 

World Health Organization (WHO) recommends spending between 150 to 300 minutes per week on moderate physical exercises or between 75 to 150 minutes on intensive activity. For example, for the most health benefit it is sufficient to quickly ride a bike for 20 minutes every day or to jog for 25 minutes 3 times per week. 

However, many people find long aerobic workouts boring and monotonous. It is hard to find time for them in a fast-paced life. Loretta DiPietro, professor of physical activity and nutrition science of George Washington University (USA) comes to help. She believes that it is sufficient to dedicate to physical activity 2.5 minutes at the end of every work hour for people who do office work and do not move much. To begin with, while it becomes a habit, one can set a timer reminding of the need to break for several easy exercises (bending, sit-ups, and jumping). It is recommended to have longer breaks (up to 5 minutes) every two hours – to walk fast up and down the hall or go up and down the stairs. This way one is able to maintain the muscle tonus. Many experts also believe it will stimulate brain activity and maintain a high level of mental work ability.

It is amazing that these experts say that short breaks during the day for light physical activity are as good for health as 150 minutes of intensive training per week. It means it is not necessary to go to the gym or pool for those who do not enjoy it. Of course, you will not break a record, but you will definitely experience a positive effect of such activity.

2. Become a “weekend athlete” 

People of many occupations do not have opportunities for enough short breaks for stretching. Not everyone is able to dedicate time to regular morning runs or evening workouts, and has to compensate for the lack of physical exercises during weekdays with active exercises on weekends. Millions of people love to run, ride a bike, swim or do other sports at   least once or twice during the week. Does it improve our health even more?

The Journal of Internal Medicine - a journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) – has published a study of 63,591 people in Great Britain. The experts concluded that people who led an active lifestyle had approximately 30% lower risk of death caused by any factor compared to those who never engaged  in physical exercises. These results did not depend on the distribution of physical activity during the week. Even people with obesity and other risk factors receive significant health benefits from exercises when they set their own time and intensity depending on their own schedule, life rhythm, and physical ability. 

The Journal of Medicine & Science & Sports & Exercise (USA) has published another study confirming these findings. Researchers offered a group of 3,438 Americans 40 plus years of age to wear accelometers to measure the intensity and duration of their physical activity during the week. The experiment lasted for 6.5 years and showed that people with medium or high level of physical activity (at least 150 minutes per week) had 60-69% lower risk of death than those who were not active enough (less than 37.5 minutes per week). However, they did not discover any difference between weekend athletes and those who exercised during the week.

Yet, researchers do not give a definite answer as to what is healthier – to do less intensive daily exercises or to seriously load one’s body on weekends. We need additional research. 

Loretta DiPietro advises to exercise whenever and as long as one is comfortable with. Try not to push yourself but enjoy. Consider your physical condition,  calculate your strength, and avoid excessive stress so as not to get injured.

3. Exercise on a team

Nature Communications Journal (Great Britain) has published a study which stated that friends and acquaintances can encourage a person towards different activities, such as jogging. These findings correspond to the social comparison theory advanced by Leon Festinger, an American psychologist and specialist in social psychology. 

The main idea is that one evaluates himself in comparison to others: more physically active and energetic peers motivate us to develop and to perfect ourselves, whereas less active friends only help us maintain our physical shape. 

Researchers have discovered interesting results while studying rowers: working on a team resulted in a higher release of endorphin, the happy hormone, which produces an effect of joy and wellness compared to those who exercise alone. 

Of course, we still have too little research in order to give categorical conclusions and definite recommendations. Yet, we have to say that if one wants to go in for sports, having a likeminded friend may help significantly. 

4. Do not stress yourself too much

Blair Burnette, a psychology doctor from University of Minnesota (USA) provides practical advice: “Enlarge your understanding of what a physical exercise is. If you do not like jogging, yoga or gym, you can find another activity you may enjoy: walk your dog, ride a bike to work, work in your garden.” Do not get 150 minutes of activity per week right away as recommended by WHO. Start small, doing what you enjoy. “Any exercise is better than nothing,” – reassures professor DiPietro. 

According to a 2015 study published by Circulation, exercising once a week reduces the risk of heart diseases better than daily exercises. It is as important to rest for good health as it is to be physically active. If you are not aiming to break records, do not stress yourself too much. Listen to yourself and do not overload yourself, but rather do what brings you joy and pleasure.

“It is a myth that exercises must be energetic in order to be effective. It is just not true,” – says Loretta DiPietro. “Think of physical activity as of something light, comfortable, and pleasant,” – she adds.

The most important thing in the healthy living philosophy is to be happy!