1953: First evidence for exercise
In the first half of the 20th centry there was a sweeping epidemic across the western world. People were dying from heart attacks. No one had a clear explanation for this.
A combination of vaccines, antibiotics and antiseptic had meant people were no longer dying of infections, disease and viruses, and often living a lot longer. There was also a reduction in the amout of physical activity. People were being replaced in factories and farms by machinery, and were beginning to use all sorts of labour saving devices from motor cars to buses. Then in 1953 a scientist called Jerry Morris did an experiment on bus drivers and bus conductors. Both of these were stressful jobs, but (importantly) a conductor walks up and down the stairs and through the bus throughout the day (between 500 and 750 steps a day), whereas the driver spends his day sitting. He found the conductors were half as likely to drop dead from a heart attack as the drivers. The penny dropped. There was a link between lifestyle and life expectancy. Since 1953 there have been hundreds of experiments on exercise and the positive effect on just about every organ in our body. But how much exercise should we be doing? What do the government guidelines say? and can you do too much? Keep an eye out for my future blog posts where I will be exploring these ideas!