At a time when health care costs are staggering, and health insurance is really expensive for many, it is really important for each of us to understand some of the factors that could reduce the costs both to ourselves and to the country. Not too surprisingly, “exercise” is the answer that has a massive positive impact on reducing both our own health care costs, and the overall cost to society.
The basic reason is that regular intense exercise has a huge positive impact on the rate of chronic illnesses and conditions. Chronic conditions are those that persist over a long period of time and require continuing treatment or medication to manage them. Examples include obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, lung diseases, osteoporosis, dementia, cardiovascular disease, and more.
What would be the impact if “everyone” exercised even a modest 30 minutes a week?
Part of the answer comes from a study done by MBA students at the University of North Carolina, reported in Runners World in September, 2014. Assuming that 270 million Americans went out jogging (or running) 30 minutes a week (not 30 minutes 3 times a week), the estimated impacts would include an annual savings of $143 Billion from controlling diabetes and lowering blood pressure alone! The number of “sick days” used would drop, and the net result would be an additional $25 Billion increase in GDP (Gross Domestic Product).
To put this in perspective, the 2015 Federal budget for education was roughly $70 billion, Medicare about $66 billion and Science $30 billion. In other words, The impact of even this modest increase in the fitness of the general population would be two and a half times the amount of money spent on Medicare and four and a half times the amount spent by the federal government on scientific research and development.
The North Carolina study also estimated that the effect of even this limited amount of exercise would be to increase the average life expectancy by 6.2 years for men and 5.6 years for women. We might assume that because people were more fit, these additional years of life would be good ones.
The numbers here refer to the impacts associated with merely jogging 30 minutes a week. It can be assumed that even a modest increase in training would produce additional benefits.
The numbers in this study refer to aerobic exercise. It has been shown that aerobic training confers some unique benefits to the cardiovascular system that are not always found in resistance training.
In a 2012 analysis of existing research, (Greenwood and Parasuraman, Nurturing the Older Brain and Mind), found that aerobic training was one the most powerful factors in preventing dementia. Resistance training did not appear to have the same effect.
Weight training confers many benefits for health and quality of life, but not necessarily all the same ones as found in aerobic training.
Let me introduce a story from my own training history. I have done both aerobic training (running) and weight lifting (powerlifting) for decades. I ran competitively for 22 years and after getting bored with that, I changed over to doing powerlifting and competed in that for 25 years. I began lifting weights in 1955, and have done so continuously since then. In short, I have done a lot of both type of training.
In my view, both types of training confer valuable benefits for anyone, particularly those people over 50 who want to have a high quality of life as they age. At age 76, I do both aerobic and resistance training every week.
Most readers of this site are inclined to do weight training. They will benefit from doing some aerobic exercise in addition to the weigh lifting. However, a lot of lifters don’g like to do aerobics. I know many weightlifters who would sooner eat a full diaper than go running.
The good news is that if you are already doing a lot of weight training, a very modest amount of aerobic training will give you a lot of benefit. Because aerobic training is often unfamiliar territory for weight lifters, I prepared a book on how to get the benefits of aerobic training without disrupting your weight lifting.
The book is titled Aerobic Training for Weightlifters and is available in both print and electronic formats.
May you get the very best from your training.