Klaus Heinzmann is leafing through his 20-page dossier with the most recent evaluation and sounds pretty satisfied. From about 30, he increasingly neglected sports and exercise – job, family, “I just couldn’t do it anymore”. When he found out about the “Health to Participate” study, he was just right.
He started Nordic Walking and cycling in 2007. Today, the 48-year-old does three sports a week, keeps his weight and his blood values are good. “What has also changed is the awareness of always moving – also in everyday life,” he says.
He has experienced firsthand what is now simply truism: exercise is healthy, makes you happy, helps against depression, prevents dementia, supports recovery from serious illnesses. And movement keeps you young: On average, people who are active in sports are 10 years younger than those who are lazily lounging on the couch. This is one of the latest results of this long-term study, which sports scientists from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) presented in Karlsruhe.
The special thing about it: It has been accompanying around 500 residents of Bad Schönborn (Karlsruhe district) for 25 years now, who either exercise regularly – or not. Participants between the ages of 35 and now around 80 years are examined every five years in five waves so far. “So we compared activity and health data over a very long period of time,” explains Professor Alexander Woll. This is unique in this form in Germany.
Sport = long life? It is not that easy
“What totally surprised me is that just two hours of exercise a week reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome – factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, increased blood lipid levels – five times,” explains Woll. In plain language means: Those who exercise like this have a five times lower risk of cardiovascular diseases.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week. Direct effects of sport on the blood flow to the heart muscle have now been proven, Professor Harm Wienbergen from the Bremen Institute for Cardiovascular Research also reported last week at the 2017 Heart Days of the German Cardiological Society in Berlin.
The study deliberately neglected the question of nutrition: “It would have gone beyond the scope and we simply lacked the expertise in this wide field,” says Bös. However, experts do not underestimate this aspect: “Almost 60 percent of Germans are overweight, six million have diabetes,” explains sports and nutritionist Professor Daniel König from the Institute for Sports and Sports Science at the University of Freiburg. If you want to live healthier, you not only have to live a physically active life, but also change your diet.
“I would say that genes make up perhaps 20 percent, sensible nutrition 40 percent and an active lifestyle also 40 percent,” adds Alexandra Schek, a nutritionist from Gießen. However, such weights are very speculative. “I suspect that there is hardly anyone in the world who can make an evidence-based statement about this.” Moderate sport combined with full basic food was essential for a healthier life.
For Bös it is crucial: “It’s not about how old we get. But how do we get old? He believes that society should also get used to behavioral styles when it comes to exercise. “After all, brushing your teeth wasn’t the norm 50 years ago, and tooth decay was already common among children.” That has now changed completely.
In cities in particular, a certain infrastructure is required so that measures can be followed by measures. “The topic has long since found its way into the planning of cities and municipalities,” emphasizes Woll. “You would actually need a basic right to exercise. Otherwise, you limit physical integrity. “”