Unlocking Health and Longevity: The Power of Daily Movement

Getting consistent movement into your daily life is a profoundly powerful intervention for health and longevity. Several years ago, I interviewed Joan Vernikos, Ph.D., on this topic. She’s a true pioneer in this field and was one of the first professionals to understand the value and importance of regular movement, not exercise, for the preservation of health and prevention of disease.

Vernikos was hired by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in 1964, five years before Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. She served as director of the Space Life Sciences at NASA from 1993 until 2000, and has written over 200 scientific papers. Her book, “Designed to Move: The Science-Backed Program to Fight Sitting Disease and Enjoy Lifelong Health,” is the sequel to her previous book, “Sitting Kills, Moving Heals.”

### Health and Fitness Supersedes Age

“Designed to Move” is dedicated to John Glenn, the first American astronaut to do an orbital flight and a U.S. Senator. He died in 2016 at the age of 95 but made headlines when he flew back into space at the age of 77. Vernikos was instrumental in helping him get back into space.

He was a national hero and it wouldn’t be politically pleasant if something happened to him, so he was forbidden from flying again. One day, as senator, he arrived at NASA. My administrator said, ‘What do you think? Should we let John fly again?’ … I said, ‘Arbitrarily, why not? But let’s do some homework with the National Institute on Aging.’ We started asking questions of experts. The answer came back. ‘Well, there is no reason to exclude him, as long as he is healthy and fit’ … [Glenn] was extraordinary. My concern was not that anything would happen to him during the flight, but how would he recover or would he recover? … The message came back loud and clear: If you are healthy, you are fit and you take care of yourself, there’s no reason you can’t do anything that anyone else can do whatever your age.”

### Inactivity Simulates Lack of Gravity

One of the things we discussed in depth in the last interview was the effects of microgravity on the human body, and how inactivity produces effects that are very similar to those experienced by astronauts in space. Changes occur in the microgravity of space that are very reminiscent of those of aging on Earth, except they happen 10 times faster.

Take bone loss, for example. On Earth, you lose about 1% of your bone mass per year, starting at the age of 20. Astronauts, on the other hand, will lose about 5% of their bone mass after just a few months.

“We have never flown an astronaut without exercise. What we’ve seen is always with the exercise. This is what worries me … When you exercise on Earth, you have gravity to work against. The minute you stop, the response does not just cut off. The response continues over a period of time … This after-response to exercise is very valuable. In space, there’s no after-response, because there is no gravity to recover in. Then you’re right back down at 10. Movement is the most basic stimulus that we experience many times a day, or should. It involves the signal that is perceived by the vestibular system, which then regulates blood pressure.”

### Spatial Awareness Diminishes With Inactivity

Space research also reveals that, without gravity, the vestibular system and the brain maps that tell you where you are, relative to your environment, begin to deteriorate. Hence, astronauts begin to lose spatial awareness. With inactivity mimicking microgravity, inactivity worsens your spatial awareness, thereby increasing your risk of losing your balance and falling.

“If you’re 80 years old and you have poor balance and someone tells you, ‘Well, what do you expect? You’re 80 years old,’ the answer is, ‘Hell no.’ There is absolutely no reason that you cannot reacquire these maps and the orientation that you had as a child with your environment,” Vernikos says.

### Practical Strategies

So, what are some practical strategies you can use to circumvent the damage that occurs during inactivity? Vernikos believes one of the oversights in the field has been the emphasis on total hours seated instead of the uninterrupted hours seated.

If you interrupt sitting reasonably frequently, you’re less likely to experience the adverse effects of prolonged sitting. Interruptions every 20 to 30 minutes can significantly impact your health, reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems, stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity, depression, and cognitive decline in children.

### Keep Your Body in Constant Motion

The take-home message is that for optimal health, you want to stay in more or less continuous motion during waking hours. Movement doesn’t need to be anything special at all. Housecleaning, gardening, or simply standing up and shifting your posture count.

For more insights and practical tips, check out Joan Vernikos’ book, “Designed to Move: The Science-Backed Program to Fight Sitting Disease and Enjoy Lifelong Health.” In it, she provides a practical, easy-to-follow movement plan to fight the debilitating effects of uninterrupted sitting.

To read the original article by Dr. Mercola, visit [Low-Intensity High-Frequency Movement](https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2024/03/31/low-intensity-high-frequency-movement.aspx).

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