Why We Could All Use A Few More Sunsets in Our Lives
Plus why fitness friends are so important as we age, and inspiration from a Dutch distance runner.
Welcome to the latest edition of PF Quick Hits, a (mostly) lighthearted look at recent fitness news and trends. Quick Hits is published…well, when we feel like it.
“Dad, this is so fun!” my son exclaimed, as we ran up a hill to finish up our first trail run together.
Simple words every dad loves to hear, especially in the times we’re living in, with many children constantly hypnotized by their electronic devices, ignoring the world outside their windows.
Last night’s outing wasn’t a long run, for sure—we tallied 1.4 miles—but the distance didn’t matter. We’d achieved our goal for the evening: watching the sunset from top of the hill overlooking a rolling meadow and small lake in our local nature preserve.
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My son felt extra motivated by a new study I’d told him about that showed that sunsets are “the most beautiful and awe-inspiring weather,” per the Washington Post [paywall]. The article posited we should all be watching more sunsets, as feelings of awe can improve your mood and decrease stress.
The sunset inspired awe in both of us, as did other scenes from the nature preserve: a white and brown spaniel bounding hilariously up the hill through the high grass, the red hints of Texas paintbrush flowers dotting the fields and the ripples from fish biting on the glassy surface of the lake at dusk.
Even though we were only gone from the house for an hour, we came away from the time outdoors feeling refreshed and relaxed. I think there’s definitely something to the notion that we should take in more sunsets.
As we’re heading into the warmer months, I’m going to be more intentional about exercising in the evening and enjoying our beautiful Texas sunsets. Maybe we can get #SunsetChallenge trending?
Can fitness friends help us avoid dementia?
It wasn’t just the beauty of the sunset and the surroundings that helped me relax last night—it was sharing time with my son outdoors.
New research from Japan found exercising with your fitness friends can be important in helping maintain your cognitive health and avoid dementia as you get older.
We’ve talked about the importance of fitness friends on the Practically Fit podcast, and this four-year study shows just how important the concept can be as we age. The researchers aimed to track older people’s (75+) cognitive states, comparing two groups: one that exercised with others and one that exercised alone. The results showed that exercise was beneficial in reducing cognitive impairment no matter what, but that the group exercising with others was even less likely to develop dementia as they got older.
Hopefully I’ve got a few years until I have to worry about this, but nonetheless, this study got my attention.
Don’t let aging slow your training…
A recent article from Outside posed an intriguing question:
How much of aging is an inevitable slide into decrepitude, and how much is a result of not getting enough exercise?
Please don’t leave me hanging, Outside.
That’s the question Johannes Burtscher of the University of Lausanne, along with colleagues in Switzerland and Austria, posed recently in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. By pooling the results of more than a dozen studies, the group reached an encouraging, quantifiable conclusion: only about half of the fitness losses suffered by endurance athletes as they get older are attributable to the passage of time. The other half can be chalked up to reduced training.
Thank you for not leaving me hanging. In addition to the research study cited above, the article goes on to mention a couple of aging endurance athletes with amazing VO2 max readings—the maximum amount of oxygen you can use during intense exercise.
Take Hans Smeets, for example, a 75-year old runner who has set multiple records in middle-distance races and has a 50.5 VO2 max, the highest known reading for his age. The amazing thing about Hans?
Smeets only began running at 50, further evidence that it’s never too late to start (or start again). And once he’d begun, he kept going. Over the next 25 years, he never missed more than a week of training. Initially, he ran more than 85 miles per week, and at 75 he was still logging as many as 50. He attributed his ability to handle all that mileage without injury to doing most of his runs at, in his words, “an easy pace.”
I see two big takeaways here. First, resist the the urge to cut down the time or length of your training sessions as you age. And second, if you’re a runner or a cyclist, take a lesson from Aesop’s The Tortoise and the Hare.
“Slow and steady wins the race.”