I am a huge fan of online streaming… I am currently midway through Little Fires Everywhere and The Crown, in fact … but if ever there was a time for getting off the couch and moving your body, it is now. As we are quarantined, while we are certainly not all held against our will as an inmate or POW is, there is powerful evidence to show that exercise, even in these extreme cases, provides substantial benefits.
You may live twice as long (if you’re an elephant): Exercise, according to a Norwegian study last year, even a little bit, can improve your life expectancy. This applies dramatically to animals too. In a review of the lifespans of 785 elephants living in captivity in zoos in Europe between 1960 and 2005, ABC News reported in 2008 the average lifespan of Asian Elephants in zoos was 18.9 years compared to the lifespan of over 40 years of Asian Elephants used for hard labor by a logging company in Burma. Further, when comparing African Elephants living in a national park, free to roam and move like they would in the wild, to those in zoos, African Elephants in the parks lived an average of 56 years compared to those in captivity who lived less than 17!
You may have less depression: Exercise can have a positive impact on mental health, even during incarceration.According to a reportin2017 by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 40% of people in jail suffer from some kind of serious psychological distress. But an earlier study, albeit on a small population, found that moderate exercise can have a significant impact on people in prison. In a 1995 study of 45 inmates in two different correctional facilities, Journal of Correctional Health reported that those inmates who began and participated in an aerobic exercise program a mere three hours a week for 12 weeks reported (using a paper and pencil inventory before and after the 12 week period) significantly fewer symptoms of depression than those inmates who did not exercise.
You may be less likely to get really sick: According to an article in a 1962 Sports Illustrated, Joseph Pilates, creator of the classical Pilates workout system, was traveling with a circus in England during WW1 and because of his German citizenship, he was sent to the Isle of Man as a POW. As months became years, Joseph Pilates, working with injured inmates and studying anatomy books in the camp library, began to develop an orderly system of exercises which he began to practice himself, use to help the injured, and encourage others to join him. When the influenza pandemic of 1918 came to the Isle of Man, none of the soldiers doing Joseph Pilates’ exercises came down with the flu. Perhaps not a statistically significant study with proper controls and methodology, but compelling nonetheless.
My three teenage boys are tired of hearing me ask, “What are you doing for exercise today?” as we live in close quarters with little or no venturing out. While we are all in our homes for the immediate future, I beg you (as I beg my kids) to remember the importance of keeping our bodies active.