Originally published on Advisor Perspectives, January 2, 2019
Advisors have an unassailable expertise in assessing risk, but there are hidden ones that will take you down, destroy your family and decimate your clients.
You need to take them seriously.
The power of exercise
Here’s a stunning observation from Brain Rules, by John Medina: One of the greatest predictors of successful aging, according to researchers, is whether or not one lives a sedentary lifestyle.
Read that sentence again. Its implications are profound.
The difference between pushing a walker, while staring vacantly ahead in a nursing home, and thriving physically and mentally as you age, is directly related to exercise.
Seniors who exercised outperformed coach potatoes in cognitive tests measuring long-term memory, reasoning, attention, problem-solving skill and “fluid intelligence tasks” (which test the ability to reason quickly and improvise).
Not much exercise is required
Some are deterred from exercising because they believe only very strenuous exercise is beneficial.
These findings from Medina may surprise you:
- Just walking several times a week benefits the brain;
- Moderate exercise is better than no movement at all;
- The “gold standard” is aerobic exercise for 30 minutes, two to three times a week; and
- Adding weight training provides even more cognitive benefit.
Benefits of exercise
I was stunned when I read the benefits of exercise, as reported by Medina. Here’s a summary:
- A 20-minute walk each day cuts your risk of stroke by 57%.
- Exercise has been shown to be “astonishingly successful” in treating depression and anxiety.
- Aerobic exercise just twice a week halves your risk of general dementia. It cuts your risk of Alzheimer’s by 60%.
- Exercise decreases your risk for heart disease and diabetes.
I love this line in Medina’s book: “Physical activity is cognitive candy.”
Medina cites research indicating young children benefit from exercising. Children who exercise identify visual stimuli faster than sedentary children. They are also less disruptive, feel better about themselves, have more self-confidence and are less depressed and anxious.
Many advisors are concerned about how to define the value they add. I have a suggestion for you. Share these findings with your clients.
Better yet, form a group that takes aerobic walks two or three times a week. I can’t think of a better way to get closer to your clients while conferring a meaningful benefit on them.
Don’t forget your employees. Incorporating exercise into their workday will reduce healthcare costs and boost the collective brainpower of an organization. Medina suggests giving employees access to treadmills and showing them how to walk (or bicycle on a stationary bike) slowly while composing e-mail.
The payoff from relatively low levels of exercise is a no-brainer. Medina believes, with exercise, we have in our hands as close to a magic bullet for improving human health as exists in modern medicine.
How about making exercise a priority in your life, the lives of your loved ones, employees and clients?
Here’s how I do it. I define a successful day as one in which I get some form of exercise. In order to check that box, I make exercise my #1 priority every day. The earlier in the day I do it, the happier I am because I know that, no matter what else happens, my day was a success.
Try it and see if it works for you.