“How can one keep well physically and mentally?” —among other queries on health challenging the human mind, the one related to keeping well would rank near top of the list.  As many studies go on, one factor emerges time and again as crucial, within a host of several factors influencing human health. That one factor — physical exercise, appears to have the potential to secure the well being of human health along with a few other factors such as proper diet and adequate sleep.

Recently two studies with specific findings and recommendations have received attention. One relates physical exercise to mental well being while the other deals with the role of exercise in preventing or treating decline of functional capacity and in enhancement of quality of life of older men and women.

The study at Pen State University utilized the daily diaries of 190 university students submitted each day for eight days and these recorded physical activity ( not less than 15 minutes) and intensity (mild, moderate or vigorous), quantity and quality of sleep and mental states which include perceived stress and other feelings. The study team classified the mental states into four categories e.g  pleasant-activated feelings characterized  by excitement and enthusiasm, pleasant-deactivated feeling characterized by satisfaction and relaxation, unpleasant- activated feeling characterized by anxiety and  anger  and unpleasant-deactivated feeling characterized by depression and sadness .

The team observed that those who exercised experienced more pleasant activated feelings than those who did not exercise and that they also felt more pleasant activated feelings than what they themselves felt on days they were less active. In this observation, the team had ways to discount the effect of other influencing factors like sleep etc. The observation is important as it indicates daily activity (exercise) has a “feel good” effect on short term and this continues long term if one continues with exercise. This is likely to motivate people to go for physical activity of certain time and intensity on daily basis and enjoy the fruits in small measures and then to continue doing so over longer periods and hopefully perpetually.

As a corollary, physical activity may go long ways in reducing or replacing depression by bringing in pleasant activated feeling on daily or continued basis, depending on its duration. Activated feelings, however, does not help in alleviating anxiety in anxiety prone individuals as they need reduction rather than activation.

The second study carried out by the ” Bio mechanics and Physiology of Movement” research group at the Public University of Navarre in collaboration of the University of Tras-os-Montes e Alto Duoro (Portugal) and the Federal University of Rio Grande del Sur (Brazil) reported that strength training for 12 weeks improved functional capacity and quality of life of  older men and women. This goes well beyond what was shown in earlier studies that strength training prevented or reduced muscle loss in older people.

The strength training or resistance training are often used to represent the same concept i.e using resistance to muscular contraction to develop strength, endurance and muscle.

After studying 56 older women subjected to high speed power training and 26 older men subjected to endurance training, the research team observed that physical exercise from age 50 onwards play a major role in preventing and treating cardiovascular and other chronic diseases. Also it helps, by building muscle mass and strength, in restoring functional capacity of the body to perform as well as people who are 20 years younger, thereby enhancing quality of life and reducing the health care needs of the older people.

The rising proportion of older people in the general population which itself is on the rise in many regions, has made the preventive health measures of older people a matter of great interest. Physical exercise regime selected for older men and women delay disabilities by preventing loss of muscular mass and quality, which helps in retaining mobility and capacity to do basic activities of daily life, as people age.