There is a “miracle cure” that has an absolutely extraordinary effect on the human body. It can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer by up to 50 per cent. And it can reduce your risk of dying early by as much as 30 per cent. This form of treatment is free and pretty much anyone can do it.
“This is no snake oil,” says the NHS website. “Whatever your age, there’s strong scientific evidence that [it] can help you lead a healthier and happier life.” You may have already guessed what it is, but now there is even further support for the idea that exercise has a hugely beneficial effect on human health.
A global panel of experts, after reviewing evidence of its benefits for people with cancer, called for the systematic use of an “exercise prescription” to help patients cope with the side-effects of treatment and improve survival rates.
Edinburgh cancer patient Gary MacDougall spoke how exercise had helped him “mentally to take a break from the worry” and that during his first six chemotherapy sessions he had actually become “stronger and fitter”.
Age no barrier
Human beings are designed to be physically active. Modern lifestyles, which mean many people can remain seated for much of the day, whether they are in the car or on the bus to work, typing at a computer in an office or watching television at home, are unnatural in the extreme.
But as well as creating a largely sedentary world, we also seem to have convinced ourselves that exercise is something people only do when they are young.
This is simply not true. One of the most transformative steps that could be taken would be to turn Scotland into a ‘sporting nation’, one in which everyone has a sport throughout their life.
This could be something as simple as walking. Anyone can go for a walk, but perhaps walking clubs would help us do it on a more regular basis.
It could be something a bit more exciting, like walking football, for example, or a bit more strenuous like badminton, hillwalking, rugby or long-distance running.
In addition to its effects on health, exercise also appears to have a positive effect on our mood and mental well-being.
Setting up a host of new sports clubs would take a considerable amount of organising but wouldn’t necessarily need to cost an inordinate amount of money.
And, surely, given the benefits, the savings for the NHS and other public services, it would be worth it.