The Gretchen Reynolds column in the health/science section of the NY Times is almost always worthwhile.
Here she sums up her last year's columns.
The past year in fitness has been alternately inspiring, vexing and diverting, as my revisiting of all of the Phys Ed columns published in 2012 makes clear. Taken as a whole, the latest exercise-related science tells us that the right types and amounts of exercise will almost certainly lengthen your life, strengthen your brain, affect your waistline and even clear debris from inside your body’s cells. But too much exercise, other 2012 science intimates, might have undesirable effects on your heart, while popping painkillers, donning stilettos and sitting and reading this column likewise have their costs.Similarly, in a study from Denmark that I wrote about in September, a group of pudgy young men lost more weight after 13 weeks of exercising moderately for about 30 minutes several times a week than a separate group who worked out twice as much.
“These data certainly support the idea that more running is not needed to produce extra health and mortality benefits,” Dr. Carl J. Lavie, a cardiologist in New Orleans and co-author of the study told me. “If anything,” he said, “it appears that less running is associated with the best protection from mortality risk.”
Similarly, in a study from Denmark that I wrote about in September, a group of pudgy young men lost more weight after 13 weeks of exercising moderately for about 30 minutes several times a week than a separate group who worked out twice as much.
The men who exercised the most, the study authors discovered, also subsequently ate more than the moderate exercisers.
Even more striking, however, the vigorous exercisers subsequently sat around more each day than did the men who had exercised less, motion sensors worn by all of the volunteers showed.
“They were fatigued,” said Mads Rosenkilde, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Copenhagen and the study’s co-author.
But the inverse of that finding proved to be equally true: not fitting periods of activity into a person’s daily life also affected life span. Perhaps the most chilling sentence that I wrote all year reported that, according to a large study of Western adults, “Every single hour of television watched after the age of 25 reduces the viewer’s life expectancy by 21.8 minutes.”
I am watching much less television these days.
But not all of the new fitness science I covered this year was quite so sobering or, to be honest, consequential. Some of the more practical studies simply validated common sense, including reports that to succeed in ball sports, keep your eye on the ball; during hot-weather exercise, pour cold water over your head; and, finally, on the day before a marathon, eat a lot.
But when I think about the science that has most affected how I plan my life, I return again and again to those studies showing that physical activity alters how long and how well we live. My days of heedless youth are behind me. So I won’t soon forget the study I wrote about in September detailing how moderate, frequent physical activity in midlife can delay the onset of illness and frailty in old age. Exercise won’t prevent you from aging, of course. Only death does that. But this study and others from this year underscore that staying active, even in moderate doses, dramatically improves how your aging body feels and responds.