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Living longer


I was never much of a one for sports. Every time I played baseball, I got hit in the mouth with a ball or bat. Whenever I played football, I ended up with a mouthful of mud. Imagine my delight when I discovered that the physical education requirement at my college could be satisfied by playing ping pong or on the rifle range.

After reaching that glorious stage in life when other people couldn't make me do things I'd rather not, the case against exercising seemed straightforward and overwhelmingly persuasive.

  1. Exercising consumed time.
  2. Exercising was not programming.
  3. Therefore, by exercising, less time was available for programming.

I'm a hacker--I like to program! Substitute your own favourite activity for programming and you'll see what I mean. In addition, exercise carried all the unpleasant connotations of high school calisthenics, or the equivalent indignity of more modern, yet equally regimented, forms of workouts.

But is there a flaw in this argument after all? Indeed there is. The premises are correct, but the conclusion doesn't account for the fact that regular exercise will, in all likelihood, allow you to live longer. Let's look at the numbers.

  This ``Life Extension Worksheet'' is provided as an Excel worksheet. You may want to load LIFEXT.XLS and plug in your own numbers to compare with mine. Directions for calculating increased lifespan by hand are given on page [Ref].

Life Extension Worksheet

So, if you're 40 years old, and you exercise 15 minutes a day from now until you turn 65, you'll have spent a total of about a quarter of a year exercising in those 25 years.

But, if by exercising you manage to live 3 years longer, you're ahead by a total of two and three quarters years by age 65--1000 days. Your increased life span works out to an additional 172 minutes per day from age 40 through 65. Even after spending 15 minutes exercising, the life extension you can expect from getting into shape gives you what amounts to two and half more hours per day to do whatever you enjoy most! Even if you live only one additional year through physical fitness, you'll still end up with 270 more days by exercising.

Of course, we're talking percentages here; you could be run over by a truck tomorrow. But hey, if you're in shape you may dodge that truck!

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Next: Feeling better Up: What, Me Exercise? Previous: What, Me Exercise?

By John Walker