Although there are many mentions of benefits of physical activity for longevity throughout history, it all really began with some groundbreaking research in the early 1950’s. One prime example of this work is that of Jeremy Morris and colleagues who assessed the health of various workers according to the physicality of their occupation. In their initial study (published in 1953 in Lancet) they looked at the rates of coronary events (angina, heart attack, etc.) between conductors and drivers of London’s famous double-decker buses (as pictured above from my recent London visit). Although the drivers and conductors were exposed to basically the same work environment, the drivers were largely sedentary, meanwhile the conductors walked back and forth through the buses, climbing the stairs to check for tickets.
As clearly depicted in the following graph (taken from a more recent article) the incidence of coronary events in the drivers was almost double that of the conductors, regardless of age. Similar findings followed comparing the health of postmen to government clerks, and that of San Francisco shipyard workers (manual versus administrative jobs), among others. In all, this provided some of the first scientific evidence of the beneficial health effects of physical activity – a notion which has since been considerably expanded upon.
Taken from Paffenbarger et al. 2001
Hopefully this little historical note, along with some of our prior fitness tips (i.e. benefits of a single exercise session, taking the stairs) will aid in motivating some towards realizing their goal to get a bit more active in the new year.
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