"PHYSICAL EXERCISE IS PERHAPS THE BEST HEALTH DECISION THAT CAN BE MADE TO AGE WELL, EXCEPT FOR GIVING UP SMOKING"

Feb 26, 2021

José Viña, full professor of Physiology at the University of Valencia and collaborator at the Príncipe Felipe Research Centre, has participated in the lecture series "Una Comunitat amb ciència" with an online talk "How to live in order to age better"  

"Smile: it's not worth it to be sad", "If you want to be happy, eliminate hate from your life", "Be aware of the beauty around you", "The only constant in life is change, one must be flexible and adapt in order to live longer and better".  These are some of the phrases to frame what stood out yesterday in his online talk in the lecture series "Una Comunitat amb ciència". For more than three decades, José Viña has directed a multidisciplinary group researching how to improve the quality of life in old age and thus reduce dependency. He has shown that physical exercise is fundamental for ageing well, together with other factors such as nutrition and stress control. In this sense, he assures us that optimism lengthens life and even that therapeutic exercise improves cognitive deterioration and prevents diseases such as Alzheimer's.  An example of what he defends (combining walking and running some 8 kilometres with playing tennis and doing pilates), he counsels that the best choice is always to walk up the stairs and park far from our destination. And, yes, that is he smiling on the bike. 

To age well, how do we have to live?
It is very important to give ourselves time to learn the ways to live in order to age well. There is scientific evidence that indicates that it is based on four pillars: physical exercise, nutrition, stress control and some supplements.

How does physical exercise improve the quality of life of older people?
Physical exercise is perhaps the best health decision that you can make to age well, except for giving up smoking.
In your research in this sense, what results did you get that demonstrate the benefits of sport?
More than sport it is physical exercise, even avoiding inactivity. Controlled multicomponent and personalised physical exercise has enormous power to delay the fragility associated with age, so much so that we consider it a medicine.

-What would you say to people of whatever age who say "they can’t do" sport? Where do you find the motivation?  
It is important to make the person see the enormous benefits of exercise. In the time that I have been working on this and observed, however, that there are people who love exercise because they feel better after doing it, but there are others who simply don't want to do it because they do not feel better. It is very difficult to motivate them and it can only be done by making them see the scientific evidence of the beneficial power that can be had.

What should exercise be like?
As I have said before, it must be personalised, that is it must be oriented toward every person or group of people; it must be social; it is better to do it in a group rather than alone, among other things because more is done in a group and, in addition to be multicomponent aerobic, for example walking fast, and anaerobic, for example a little bit of weight training.

In your case, what routine do you follow? 
Other than exceptional cases, like now with the pandemic, I do two days of walking seven or eight km (many times I combine walking with running), two days of tennis and two days of pilates a week. 
Stress is another of the factors considered to age the most. How can it be "controlled" to improve the quality of life during work and personal relationships?
That is a great question.  We have to control stress by all means, by trying not to allow ourselves to be subjected to the stresses of modern life. In many cases, it helps to practice meditation, the age-old practice that essentially originated in China, but which has enormous benefits for physical and mental health.
Another of the important aspects for a happy old age is nutrition.

What diet do you advise? 
It is very difficult to summarise the recommendations for nutrition in a few lines, but I would say that you must drink a lot of water. You must eat four or five pieces of fruit or vegetables a day, and not eat a lot. On many occasions we eat more than the hunger we feel. You must eat slowly and stop eating when you note you have no more appetite.

Do those over 65 need more specific attention? How to you see the situation of geriatrics currently? 
A great deal of attention must be paid to the prevention of diseases and, specifically, the prevention of the fragility associated with age. Think about the fact that 75% of pharmaceutical resources are used in older people. Everything in prevention that is done through the systems we have named earlier will be fundamental in reducing health expenditures and above all to increase people's happiness.

Your other research is focussed on delaying the cognitive deterioration associated with Alzheimer's. Could you explain what it consists of?
There is an incontrovertible fact and that is that in the last 25 years the pharmacology for Alzheimer's disease has not improved. This is a reality we have to face up to. Currently, the best results are obtained with changes in lifestyle.
There is evidence that physical exercise delays the progression of Alzheimer's disease. We are working on improving the quality of life of people with cognitive deterioration through changes in nutrition. We expect to have interesting results to report soon. But it is very important not to raise false hopes. I can tell you already that changes in lifestyle are effective in changing, albeit slightly, the progression of Alzheimer's disease.

Online lecture 'How to live to age better'