Dr. Noe’s 10 Steps to Optimal Health
Step 1: Be Physically Active
(at least 45-60 minutes, 6 days per week)
Being physically active is one of the single best things you can do for your current and future health. In the short term it can reduce stress and improve mood, energy, sleep, blood pressure, cholesterol, joint pain, and blood sugar, among other things. In the long term it will reduce your risk for heart attack, stroke, diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, most cancers, osteoporosis, and many other chronic diseases.
The $64,000 question then is: how much physical activity do you need to get to accrue these benefits? The simple answer is 2½ hours per week, based on the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC guidelines, however, should really be considered an absolute minimum in my opinion. The more precise answer includes not just how much, but also how often and how intense. For optimal health, you should be physically active for 45-60 minutes, 6 days per week, at 60-65% of your maximal heart rate (or higher).
To estimate your maximal heart rate, subtract your age from 220. If you are 50 years old, for example, your estimated maximal heart rate is 220-50=170 beats per minute. The target heart rate for this 50 year old would be 170×0.6=102 to 170×0.65=111 beats per minute. Your maximal heart rate can be measured more precisely via a treadmill stress test, but for most people this simple formula is adequate. You can measure your heart rate by putting your first 3 fingers on your wrist (on the same side as the thumb) until you feel your pulse, and then count how many beats you feel in 60 seconds (or count for 15 seconds and multiply by 4). You can also buy a heart rate monitor for simpler and more continuous monitoring. You can find heart rate
monitors starting at about $40 at www.HeartRateMonitorsUSA.com.
Even though the CDC guidelines say that you need only 2½ hours per week (which you can get all at once if you want), there is evidence that a better guideline is to be active just about every day. This is because your body produces a steady trickle of inflammatory chemicals called cytokines every day. These inflammatory cytokines accelerate the aging process and put you at risk for many diseases, in addition to causing inflammation. Every day that you get the right amount and intensity of physical activity, however, your body produces a cascade of anti-inflammatory cytokines that halt or reverse the aging process and prevent disease. The bad news is that the bad cytokines are cumulative, so that each day you are inactive accelerates aging, inflammation, and disease. The good news is that if you follow the above guidelines (45-60 minutes, 6 days per week, 60-65% maximal heart rate), you can be functionally younger than your actual age by 10 years or more.
For a great discussion of this topic that is entertaining, informative, and motivational, I highly recommend reading Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge, MD. We have loaner copies of this book at our office for anyone who wants to borrow a copy.
For those of you who are unable to start at this duration or intensity of physical activity, the important thing is to just start wherever you can and work up to the goal as your level of physical fitness improves. The authors of Younger Next Year give a great example of a 65 year old man who was 100 pounds overweight, terribly out of shape, under lots of stress, fatigued, and had dangerously high cholesterol and high blood pressure. When he started, he could only walk 100 yards on the beach before he had to stop. He kept up with it, however, and soon he was able to walk a couple hundred yards. A year later he was walking 5 miles, 7 days per week, had lost 60 pounds, had normal blood pressure and cholesterol, and looked and felt great.
Many people tell me they just don’t have the time for this amount of exercise. Most people who follow these activity guidelines, however, will be happier, more energetic, and more productive in the time they aren’t exercising. They will experience greater quality and quantity of life as a result. In the end, you really can’t afford not to get this kind of exercise.
Naturopathic doctors are physician experts in treating the underlying cause of disease and using natural medicines to help people get and stay well. To see a naturopathic doctor for help in determining whether you suffer from the effects of inadequate physical activity, and for comprehensive help and guidance in how to make changes in your exercise habits, please make a selection below.