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Was Sir Winston Churchill Right About Exercise?

"Never sit down when you can lie down."

by
Theodore Dalrymple

Bio

October 15, 2013 - 4:30 pm
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sir-winston-churchill-sitting-behind-desk-at-chartwell

Does this mean that everyone (except those with heart failure) can or should throw away their pills and begin aerobics? The answer is far from established by this paper. First, the kinds of exercise done by the patients and the medications they took varied enormously; the statistical analysis, though elaborate, was in essence crude, and it might have been that there were subgroups whose results differed from those of larger groups in which they were included. Many of the patients in the trials of exercise were also taking medicine; if they had not been, the results might well have been very different. For example, the medicine might have increased their exercise tolerance and therefore been an essential precondition of the beneficial effects of exercise.

The authors also warn that very little is known of the ill effects, if any, of exercise. It is here that Sir Winston might have been able to defend his anti-exercise stance.

Suppose the necessary exercise takes half an hour each day: that means that it occupies 11 or 12 full days of waking time per year. Over ten years, that is equivalent to four months of waking time. If the exercise does not prolong life on average by more than 4 months per ten years it is not worth doing – unless it is enjoyed for its own sake. And since this paper gives us only the relative and not the absolute risks of death, we cannot say whether taking exercise is worth the time expended on it.

So Sir Winston might have been right after all – though personally I doubt it.

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Theodore Dalrymple, a physician, is a contributing editor of City Journal and the Dietrich Weismann Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. His new book is Second Opinion: A Doctor's Notes from the Inner City.

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Top Rated Comments   
We should also remember that Churchill was quite active as a young man and well into his forties. He was a graduate of hte Sandhurst Military Academy and either soldiered or was an active war correspondent on India's Northwest Frontier, Egypt, South America and South Africa. He played polo into his forties and learned to fly an airplane when nearly fifty. I think it's fair to say that he rarely engaged in exercise for it's own sake but was filled with such natural vitality and energy and led such an active lifestyle that he was, in effect, "always exercising." Being able to relax when he needed to at Blenheim, the Carlton Club and the French Riviera didn't hurt either.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Poor soul, he died at age 90.
If he had stood some, eaten less, quit smoking, quit drinking, he might live to a hundred, or die of boredom in his 60s.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (18)
All Comments   (18)
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"I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this Government, I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many long months of toil and struggle.

"You ask what is our policy. I will say, it is to wage war with all our might, with all the strength that God can give us, to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalog of human crime.

"You ask what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs. Victory in spite of all terror. Victory however long and hard the road may be. For without victory there is no survival."

NO TELEPROMPTER CAN REPLACE BALLS
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Leaving nothing to mere chance, I Intend to test Churchill's method.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Aside from longevity, there are quality of life arguments for exercise -- being able to pick up grandkids, having your bowels work etc.

Of course, there are the arguments that too much exercise is bad i.e. that running marathons shorten your life expectancy.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
What about having a sense of humour?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
That's an excellent observation. I have no proof but I am willing to bet that a healthy sense of humor (which includes being able to laugh at yourself) adds years to a persons life.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
You really can't expect scientist to be a judge of humor. They expect us to take their research samples of 21 bored college students as representative.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
We should also remember that Churchill was quite active as a young man and well into his forties. He was a graduate of hte Sandhurst Military Academy and either soldiered or was an active war correspondent on India's Northwest Frontier, Egypt, South America and South Africa. He played polo into his forties and learned to fly an airplane when nearly fifty. I think it's fair to say that he rarely engaged in exercise for it's own sake but was filled with such natural vitality and energy and led such an active lifestyle that he was, in effect, "always exercising." Being able to relax when he needed to at Blenheim, the Carlton Club and the French Riviera didn't hurt either.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Actually the quote, "Never etc,,,," is the first commandment to any and everyone who has EVER served in combat. ALL soldiers recognize it on sight as the ultimate truism and one that would be instantly recognized by Gaius Longinius in 242 BC if translated into Latin.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If you ask me, exercise is about quality of life.
You might not live any longer, but you will enjoy it more (except, of course, for the exercising part...).
You can wheeze going up steps or walking up hills, and spend your time sitting in place, or you exercise just a bit and be able to go places and enjoy them.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well Churchill lived to be almost 91. HIs life was filled with stress, long hours and a heavy indulgence in fine food, liquor and tobacco. At the age of 66 he embarked on five years of the most crushing responsibility ever taken on by a statesman and came through in generally good shape except for a mild heart-attack. Montgomery once told him that "I neither drink nor smoke and am 100% fit." Churchill riposted, "I both smoke and drink and am 200% fit." Churchill had a lot of help from servants and staff over his life but he fit more living into those 90 years without exercise than any ten uber-fit people that I can think of. Let's have an other brandy and an H. Uppman cigar.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The full quote is: ''Never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lie down, never stay awake when you can sleep.''
Can't find the citation, but believe that was Compton McKenzie, though Churchill wouldn't have disagreed (except he had insomnia, so drank instead). Both made it to ninety-odd.
Then there's Jim Fixx...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Rescue and dog and walk it daily. You'll both be happier.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
We seem to be learning that preventive care rarely does and that most of the health-nanny-bully advice about lifestyle makes very little difference in how long people live.
Certainly basic safety matters. People who walk out into streets on faith wind up as road kill. But screening doesn't prevent cancer or heart disease and early intervention may be far less valuable than advocacy groups suggest. It's possible that some of our five-year survivals have as much to do with finding a disease process early as with actually living longer than would have been the case.
At any event, exercise that one enjoys has benefits. Exercise you dislike may well have more costs than benefits. Even exercise you like -- I used to run four times a week, often 10k and a few times marathon distance -- may have costs. I used to have a heart rate of 46 -- and a raging case of chondromlacia. Now I have a resting rate of around 64 but I still have knees.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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