Lifehacker Tip #20 – The single best thing you can do for your health


Last year I came across a super interesting video on YouTube. It was conceived, written, and presented by Dr. Mike Evans, a Canadian physician with an interest in preventative medicine.

The video was quite brilliant and was titled 23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health?

Dr Mike spends the early stages of the video talking about a wonder drug he had been researching that had been shown to give a huge return on investment compared to most of its peers. The most startling thing about this drug was the breadth of ailments and conditions it worked for. A short list includes:

    • Knee arthritis
    • Dementia & Alzheimer’s
    • Diabetes
    • Anxiety & Depression
    • Fatigue

The most noticeable effect this drug had was a huge increase in the quality of life of the patients it was tested on and if you haven’t guessed already, that drug is of course exercise.

Most of us equate exercise with aesthetics. It is something we do for weight control or in pursuit of that ‘good looking’ weight. As you can see from the list above though, exercise goes way beyond aesthetics – it improves both your physical and mental health markedly.

Dr Mike goes on to share an interesting study called the Aerobic Centre Longitudinal Study run by Stephen Blair from the Arnold School of Public Health. What Blair found was that of ALL the usual negative lifestyle factors we think of when it comes to health (obesity, smoking, high blood pressure) none were bigger predictors of ‘death’ than low cardio-respiratory fitness. Further studies showed something really interesting:

Obesity + low fitness = very bad combination indeed

Obesity + exercise (even with no real weight loss) = amelioration of most of the bad consequences of obesity

Let me repeat that: Blair found that most of the health implications of obesity could be eradicated by introducing exercise even if the obese person did not lose any weight.

Holy awesomesauce Batman, exercise is very powerful drug indeed!

I myself have been an exerciser my whole life and can certainly vouch for the positive effect on both my physical AND mental health – the latter in particular. Anxiety and stress are hard-wired into me so I am thankful to exercise for the part it plays in keeping them under control.

So what if you have never exercised and don’t see the need to start now? Well how about this one – the most marked effects of exercise were seen in those people who went from nothing to something. You guys are the ones who have the most to gain! And don’t think for a sec that so long as you are in the normal weight range that it doesn’t matter if you exercise or not. We’ve all got arteries and hearts and lungs and no matter how healthy your weight is, exercise is the ONLY thing that will keep your heart and lungs ticking along nicely.

As for vexing issue of time that we all face (ie “I don’t have the time to exercise”) let me leave you with this sign off from Dr Mike at the end of the video to ponder:

Can you limit your sitting and sleeping
to just 23 and a half hours in the day?

Time to share your thoughts! Do you exercise regularly? If not, why not? If you do, do you love it, or do you do it grudgingly because you know it’s good for you?!

And for your interest here’s the video.