If there were a pill you could take proven to improve your health in all capacities and slash your risk of all-cause mortalities with little to no side effects, I’m wagering you would at least try it for a month or two. Taking these “pills” would increase not only your lifespan but also your healthspan. These actions require work and time, but the return on investment (ROI) is better than any medicine or drug on the market. If these actions did come in pill form, they would be on all major news headlines and hailed as the blockbuster drug of the century. The three healthy, non-pill activities with incredible ROI for your health presented are exercise, sauna use, and meditation.
If exercise were encapsulated, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the world. Exercise comes with a laundry list of benefits that improve all aspects of health at a mental, physical, and psychological level. Having an exercise routine and moving every day is one of the best things you can do for your health at any age. The best exercise is the one you do and if you find something you enjoy, find time to do it daily. Incorporating cardio (walking/run/dance), resistance training (weights/bands/body weight), and flexibility (yoga/stretching) into your weekly routine will reach the major components of exercise. Wherever you are on your health journey, exercise/movement is a must if you want to live a fruitful and happy life.
Medically proven benefits of regular exercise and movement:
- up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke
- up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes
- up to a 50% lower risk of colon cancer
- up to a 20% lower risk of breast cancer
- a 30% lower risk of early death
- up to an 83% lower risk of osteoarthritis
- up to a 68% lower risk of hip fracture
- a 30% lower risk of falls (among older adults)
- up to a 30% lower risk of depression
- up to a 30% lower risk of dementia
Sweating has long been used as therapy. The Mayans used sweat houses about 3,000 years ago. In Finland, saunas have been used for hundreds of years, and 1 in 3 Finns use saunas today. Sauna use resembles similar positive effects of that derived from exercise as you receive mild stress on the body being in 150-195 degree Fahrenheit temperatures. Amazingly, those who use a sauna 4-7 times per week have a 63% reduction in sudden cardiac death and 66% reduction in developing dementia. People with fibromyalgia experienced a 33-77% reduction in pain after using an infrared sauna regularly. There is no pill on the market that can compete with these statistics. This is likely due to the decrease in blood pressure and increases in blood vessel diameter from frequenting the sauna. Regular sauna use has also been proven to boost the immune system by decreasing catching a cold and flu by 30%. The skin is a major detox organ, and sauna use is excellent for detoxifying chemicals and heavy metals from the body via sweat. Regularly using a sauna can also relieve muscle pain and arthritis and rejuvenate the skin by replacing dead skin cells and removing bacteria. If you do not have a sauna at home or one you use at a gym or spa often, there are sauna blankets that make it easier and less costly to receive similar benefits of sitting in a sauna.
Daily meditation can be medicating. Meditating for 15 minutes or more per day has been proven to improve addictions, sleep, attention span, self-awareness, anxiety, stress, and emotional health. There are areas of the brain that become active from the quietude and stillness of meditation that create lasting physiological effects. Meditating at least 15-20 minutes per day can also change the structure of the brain. After eight weeks of meditation, participants in one study found an increase of thickness in the hippocampus (responsible for learning and memory) and specific areas that play roles in emotion regulation. There was also a decrease in brain cell volume found in the amygdala, responsible for fear, anxiety, and stress. The wonderful thing about meditation is that it is accessible anywhere. My current favorite meditation is hopping on an app (Calm) using the guided form. However you choose, there is no wrong way to meditate, and like anything, after consistent practice, you’ll start to notice the positive effects of meditation.
Other benefits derived from regular meditation:
- Meditation improves anxiety levels 60% of the time
- Meditation can reduce the risk of being hospitalized for coronary disease by 87%
- According to mindfulness meditation stats, meditation can reduce the wake time of people with insomnia by 50%
- Meditation can increase employees’ productivity by 120%
- School suspensions were reduced by 45%, thanks to meditation
The statistics cannot be ignored! When it comes to health, there are lifestyle changes we can make that would make us healthier and vibrant individuals. Start small and make consistent subtle changes, and over time you’ll start to reap the benefits.
To MAS health,