Exercise, the Gift of a Long and Healthy Life

My personal philosophy of wellness is much more comprehensive than prostate health. All of us at Sperling Prostate Center share a commitment to total wellness in body, mind, emotion and spirit. As I have written many times, what’s good for the heart is good for the prostate, and vice versa. Even more importantly, it’s good for a long life with high health quality.

Adding exercise can be a challenge

Improving one’s lifestyle isn’t always a snap. We accumulate habits from childhood onward, and many dietary habits include a palate for refined sugars, red meat and a host of other foods that we now know contribute to the obesity and diabetes epidemics in the U.S. However, since we have to eat anyway, making different nutritional choices can be as simple as buying different ingredients while keeping the same shopping and cooking practices. Not so difficult.

Exercise, on the other hand, is not something we “have” to do to live. Thus, it requires more complicated lifestyle changes, especially if a) your day is already filled with work, family and social activities and b) your leisure time path leads to your couch instead of the gym.

If you don’t already work out, adding even three exercise windows per week may be an uphill battle. In hopes of inspiring you to either start exercising (if you don’t) or shifting to a higher gear (if you do) I want to share two informative articles by New York Times writer Gretchen Reynolds.

A little weight training goes a long way

A December 4, 2018 piece[i] summarizes an October journal article on the cardiovascular benefits of even a small amount of weight training. Ms. Reynolds points out that most people who use weights do so to build muscle and trim fat, not for heart health. However, the records of over 12,500 patients at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas reveal a startling connection between weight training and reduced risk of heart attacks and strokes. The authors cross-checked the categories of exercise (or not) performed by patients with their disease conditions and mortality during 11 years of follow-up. According to Ms. Reynolds,

The findings were dramatic: The risk of experiencing these events was roughly 50 percent lower for those who lifted weights occasionally, compared with those who never did — even when they were not doing the recommended endurance exercise. People who lifted twice a week, for about an hour or so in total, had the greatest declines in risk. 

In other words, a little resistance training using weights makes for a healthier heart muscle than not using weights at all. I felt this was a tip well worth passing along. If you already work out in a gym, talk to a trainer about adding perhaps up to 15 extra minutes of weights twice a week – perhaps a very achievable goal. And, if you never darken the doorway of a gym, how about investing in some relatively light weights for upper body strength training at home? But a word of caution: Never start a new workout, especially with weights, without first consulting your doctor, and also a one-time consultation with a personal trainer for correct form and tips on gradual increase. It’s all too easy to hurt yourself, and even a mild repetition strain can have nasty consequences! Investing in professional guidance is more than an ounce of prevention, and if it avoids a pound of cure (and medical dollars) it’s a great value.

Aerobics restores youth

The second piece[ii] explains how a program of sustained aerobics or interval training has “youthful” benefits that weight training does not. Ms. Reynolds reports on a November study showing that aerobics influences features of our chromosomes that researchers believe are connected with keeping cells young. Little bits of matter called telomeres, which cap the tips of chromosomes, “seem to protect our DNA from damage during cell division but, unfortunately, shorten and fray as a cell ages.” As tiny as telomeres are, we now have the ability to measure how long they are, as well as the ability to evaluate other biological indicators of cellular health.

For the study, researchers recruited 124 volunteers and assigned them to six months of various exercise groups (aerobic and weight training) as well as a control group. At the end of the study period, all of the exercise groups were in better shape than they were at baseline. However, those who had participated in aerobics had longer telomeres (more youthful cells) than they did at the start, whereas the weight training group did not.

While I am not an exercise physiologist, my take-away message from these two articles is that a combination of regular vigorous exercise (150 minutes/week of aerobics is typically recommended) and a little weight training is ideal. It may be a challenge to incorporate in your busy life, but embracing a program that creates and maintains cell health and heart strength is a sure-fire recipe for a long and healthy life.

NOTE: This content is solely for purposes of information and does not substitute for diagnostic or medical advice. Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing pelvic pain, or have any other health concerns or questions of a personal medical nature.


[i] Reynolds, Gretchen. “Event a Little Weight Training may Cut the Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke.” The New York Times/Well, Dec. 4, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/04/well/move/even-a-little-weight-training-may-cut-the-risk-of-heart-attack-and-stroke.html

[ii] Reynolds, Gretchen. “Is Aerobic Exercise the Key to Successful Aging?” The New York Times/Phys Ed, Dec. 12, 2018. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/12/well/move/is-aerobic-exercise-the-key-to-successful-aging.html

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