Back in my 20’s, I worked in a factory that made architectural panels, lab tabletops and similar products. It was heavy, sweaty work, but the pay was pretty good for unskilled work. So our workforce tended to stick around.
To get the big panels from station to station, we had two full-time drivers. I’ll call them Rob and Ron.
Rob and Ron were the same age, and when I arrived at the plant, they were about 4 or 5 years from retirement. Both had been drivers for years. They were both a little overweight, but otherwise seemed to be in good health.
Rob was friendly and outgoing and sang to himself all day as he shuttled loads from station to station. He was always in motion. Nights and weekends, he hung wallpaper to save up extra money for retirement.
Ron was a nice guy, but kind of shy. He was there when you needed him, but if there was a chance for little downtime, he was happy enough to sit in a quiet spot until he was needed. Nights and weekends, he watched a lot of TV.
Rob and Ron retired just a couple of months apart. Rob still took papering jobs on the side, but he and his wife spent as much time as they could traveling and visiting with friends and family. Ron just puttered around the house for a few months.
I say a few months, because that’s as long as he lived. According to the friends he’d worked with for many years, he hadn’t been sick. He just died.
Rob, on the other hand, stayed active for many years after retirement.
And that seems to be a secret of a long life. Staying active. Or, as the physicists put it, “A body in motion tends to stay in motion.”
It’s inertia. Ron was a couch potato, Rob was always in motion. And he stayed that way for a long, long time.
Over the years, I’ve thought about Rob and Ron from time to time. I always wondered if it was a coincidence… just the luck of the draw. After all, neither of them exercised or played sports.
Not too long ago, the British Journal of Sports Medicine handed me the answer. I’d been looking up some information online and came a cross a study they had just published.
The doctors running the study took a few thousand volunteers – all aged 60 at the start – and kept track of their health and activity for more than 12 years.
Among those who didn’t engage in regular exercise, there was still a big difference in health and life expectancy. Those who had a more active lifestyle stayed healthier and lived longer than those who were less active.
Plus, they tended to have trimmer waists, better cholesterol levels, lower triglycerides, lower blood sugar and lower insulin levels. They also were far less likely to have a first heart attack.
I’m thinking maybe we’ll switch off the TV a little more often.