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Getting Fit – It’s Never Too Late to Start

Getting Fit – It’s Never Too Late to Start

If there’s one thing we all know, it’s that regular exercise is good for our health, and that a sedentary lifestyle can have a negative effect on our physical wellbeing. National guidelines suggest that the average adult should partake in a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes vigorous exercise per week[1]in order to maintain a healthy body. Until recently, it’s been believed that this level of exercise needs to be relatively consistent throughout your life in order to reap the benefits and reduce the risk of death. A new study, however, suggests that actually, it’s never too late to start. 

Why Starting Later is Still Beneficial

The study, carried out at the National Cancer Institute and published in JAMA Network Open, examined people’s exercise patterns and subsequent death records, recording the correlation between an active lifestyle and age and cause of death[2]. Researchers looked at data from 315,059 Americans between the ages of 50 and 71 who had completed questionnaires rating their activity level in the 1990s. The study then tracked who had died and why, up until the end of 2011, taking into account other factors such as age, sex, whether they smoked, their diet, and so on[3]. Of those examined, over 71,000 had died – 22,000 of heart disease, and 16,000 of cancer[4]. Of those examined, 56% claimed they had remained consistently active throughout their lives, 30% stated their exercise levels had declined, and 13% said they started getting fit in later life[5].

Of course, those who consistently exercised had a lower risk of death when compared to those who didn’t exercise at all (around 42% less chance of dying from heart disease, and 14% less chance of dying from cancer[6]). What the researchers found really interesting, however, is that those who started getting fit in later life had a similar result (43% less likely to die from heart disease, and 16% less chance of dying from cancer). That means that even if you’ve not been active in your early life, it’s not too late to start – you can reap the benefits! Dr. Pedro Saint-Maurice, lead author of the study, explained, “if you maintain an active lifestyle or participate in some sort of exercise […] you can reduce your risk of dying. If you are not active and you get to your 40-50s and you decide to become active, you can still enjoy these benefits”[7].

The Benefits of a Good Scare

The Benefits of a Good Scare

It is around this time of year that scaring becomes a big deal. Houses are strung with Halloween decorations from spiders to ghosts and ghouls, and then often splashed with ‘blood’ as well. Families and friends play tricks on each other or gather together in dark rooms to watch scary movies or tell terrifying tales. Haunted houses make a killing too – if you’ll excuse the pun! Of course, it’s not just in October that we liked to be scared either. In fact, all year round, people partake in extreme sports or adrenaline pumping activities and the scare industry is big business. We make an event of being scared, eagerly anticipating it and taking a thrill from it afterwards. In short: we love it!

What’s odd about this is that should any of these activities have a genuine, real-life affect, we’d be terrified – and not in a good way, as intended. Most people would not want to be put into a genuinely life threatening situation and fear is our brain’s way of protecting us from that. It warns us of a threat and helps us to react accordingly, but when it comes to thrill seeking, a lot of people thrive on a good scare. So we know that some people enjoy it. The question is, though, can a scare actually be good for you?

The answer? Absolutely it can, and this is why:

 The High

The first and perhaps most obvious benefit of being scared is the natural high that comes with it. When faced with a potentially threatening situation, our bodies go into what is known as the fight or flight response. At its base, this is a release of adrenaline that allows us to either flee from the situation or act quickly and efficiently to fight it. At a more complex level, it’s a physiological change. Our heart rate increases, our breath quickens, we begin to sweat, our muscle tense, and our concentration focuses narrowly on the perceived threat. Our brains are also flooded with chemicals such as dopamine and endorphins – yes, the same ones that give you a buzz after exercising[1].

It’s not fight or flight that is, in itself, enjoyable. In a genuinely threatening situation, we wouldn’t get a buzz from this response, but rather would be able to react in a way that better suited the circumstances. Dr. Margee Kerr, a scare specialist at Robert Morris University says the response becomes enjoyable when we know that we are away from harm. Once we accept that we are safe, we are free to enjoy the chemical rush and enjoy that sense of relief – or even of achievement – that we feel once we get through a haunted house or scary movie[2].