The New York Times this week reports on two studies that highlight the varied benefits of getting off your butt for some physical activity.
In one of the studies, published earlier this month in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, 8,800 people who were 25 and older were followed for six and a half years. The study found that each hour of television they watched daily was associated with an 18 percent increase in deaths from heart disease and an 11 percent increase in mortality rates overall.
What's more, as the Times reports, "those who watched television four hours or more a day were 80 percent more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than those who watched two hours or less, and 46 percent more likely to die of any cause."
The researchers took steps to rule out the possibility that those who were already ill were watching more television than those who were healthy. They did this by excluding subjects who already had heart disease and controlling for risk factors like diet and smoking.
While this study suggests the dangers linked to a sedentary life, the second highlights the benefits of an active one.
In the study, published in Archives of Internal Medicine, 155 women ages 65 to 75 were put into one of two groups: one did strength training with dumbbells and weight machines once or twice a week; the other (the control group) did balance and toning exercises.
A year later, the study showed that the women who had done strength training had improved their performance on tests of what researchers call "executive function"–cognitive skills like planning, making decisions, and completing a task without getting distracted. Their scores went up by between 10.9 and 12.6 percent; women in the other group saw their scores decline slightly.
The authors of the study note that "our data strongly support the notion that, regardless of body weight, engaging in physical activity may increase the probability of preserving optimal health."