Exercise Goals for the New Year

New year, new you, and with it come many things to accomplish. After holiday excesses, it’s important to get back on track. Getting back to an exercise routine after a sedentary period is always complicated, so the key is to create a habit that makes it essential in our day to day.

It’s important to remember the benefits of daily physical activity at any age. Your starting point does not matter. What does matter is that you make an improvement and what this means in terms of physical, mental, and functional health gains. According to a review by the American Physiological Society (APS), physical inactivity increases the risk of 35 chronic diseases. As a result, evidence supports the notion that physical inactivity is a real cause of a shorter period of good health and premature mortality.

Tania Mesa – Director of Neolife Nutrition and Nursing Unit

Alejandro Monzó – Neolife Nutrition and Nursing Unit

A decrease in physical activity is linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases

A new year begins full of opportunities for acquiring healthy lifestyle habits. Just like a healthy diet, physical activity plays a fundamental role in an individual’s health. By definition, physical activity is any body movement produced by the skeletal muscles that requires an amount of energy (1).

Physical activity” should not be confused with “exercise“. The latter is a kind of physical activity that is planned, structured, repetitive, and carried out with a goal that is related to the improvement or maintenance of one or more fitness components (1). Physical activity may include exercise, but also other activities that involve body movement and are carried out as moments of play, work, active forms of transport, domestic tasks, and recreational activities.

Physical inactivity has been observed to be the fourth risk factor for global mortality (6% of deaths worldwide) (1). Moreover, it is estimated that physical inactivity is the leading cause of approximately 20-25% of breast and colon cancers, 27% of cases of diabetes, and 30% of the cause of ischemic heart disease.

According to the review published by the APS, physical inactivity is the primary cause of 35 separate pathologies and clinical conditions (Figure 1.). Most of the 35 conditions fall into major categories, like the loss of functional abilities with aging, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, cancer, bone and muscle disorders, as well as reproductive, digestive, pulmonary, and kidney disease (2).

Melatonin at high doses protects against cancer
Figure 1. Physical inactivity increases the risk of 35 chronic diseases (2).

After the holidays, a sedentary lifestyle and body weight gain, typical for this time of year, are two very concerning factors for our health. A sedentary lifestyle has been shown to induce a number of changes in the body that result in poor metabolic health (3). This may become a vicious cycle, because a person who doesn’t move accelerates their cellular aging processes, and has poor cardiorespiratory capacity and less muscle strength, which in turn makes it even harder for them to start moving.

One popular new year’s resolution is to recover from all the holiday excesses with the help of physical activity. Doing strength training, walking at least an hour a day, or playing some kind of sport must be essential to your new habits, if you wish to achieve your goals in a more reliable and long-lasting way. A study from the University of Birmingham shows that it’s never too late to start exercising (4). According to research, older people who have never participated in sustained exercise programs have the same ability to develop muscle mass as highly trained expert athletes of a similar age.

On the other hand, according to the findings of a new study conducted in over 1.1 million elderly people published by the European Heart Journal, an increase in exercise from age 60 reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke (5). Researchers found that people who engaged in less moderate or vigorous physical activity as they grew older had a 27% increased risk of heart and vascular problems, while those who increased their activity levels had a lower risk of heart disease by up to 11%.

Human aging is the product of different functional changes that lead humans to suffer a substantial reduction of all of their capabilities. Muscle mass is also vulnerable, and its deterioration often causes serious health problems. Sarcopenia is a syndrome that is characterized by a gradual and widespread loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength, with the risk of adverse outcomes, such as physical disability, poor quality of life, and premature death (6).

That said, recent research shows that a muscle is like an endocrine organ (7). Exercise is able to stimulate the release of proteins called myokines, which induce changes in both the muscle itself and other organs and tissues. These proteins protect and improve the functionality of muscle tissue, regulating your metabolism, hypertrophy, angiogenesis, and inflammatory processes. Moreover, as endocrine functions, myokines are able to regulate body weight, low-grade inflammation, insulin sensitivity, suppression of tumor growth, and improved cognitive function (Figure 2).

Melatonin at high doses protects against cancer
Figure 2. Endocrine effects of myokines and human metabolites regulated by exercise.

Generally speaking, if you’ve gained a few extra pounds after the holidays, you should note a recent study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA). This study found that people who lose weight and don’t regain it are able to stabilize or even improve their cardiometabolic risk factors compared to people who regain weight (8). There were significant improvements in HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, fasting blood sugar level, glycosylated hemoglobin, blood pressure, and waist circumference (all key factors of cardiovascular health) when compared to individuals who regained the weight they had lost. Therefore, try to remember the importance and be aware of the benefits of daily physical activity.

All of these studies emphasize the importance of muscle mass in our health, as well as being more physically active. According to the recent HUNT study conducted by the European Society of Cardiology (ESC), two decades of a sedentary lifestyle is linked to twice the risk of premature death compared to two decades of physical activity (9). The authors recommend that the amount of exercise adults should do to optimize their health is 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity or 75 minutes a week of very high intensity aerobic physical activity.

In short, physical training (especially strength training) is one of the most effective ways to delay sarcopenia and the chronic diseases that are commonly associated with this condition. More and more benefits are confirmed for physical activity, and its effects extend to other situations such as falls, cognitive decline, and mood (2, 6, 4, 7). Therefore, exercising and maintaining muscle mass can help combat the numerous chronic diseases mentioned and alleviate the effects of today’s sedentary lifestyle.

At Neolife, we are certain that you’ve set goals for yourself pertaining to exercise routines for this new year. Now you know the consequences of physical inactivity and the health problems that come with it. The choice is yours to change your lifestyle, for your benefit and for your loved ones. It’s not about living as long as possible. It’s about reaching old age feeling as young as possible. Lastly, here are some tips to start exercising this new year, with the ultimate goal of improving your quality of life:

  • Choose the type of exercise that best suits you.
  • Remember that in addition to doing sports or training, it’s important to remain active throughout the day.
  • Don’t forget to warm up.
  • Set one or more realistic and achievable goals.
  • Start by doing simple exercises and gradually increase intensity.
  • Prioritize strength exercises and workouts for greater health benefits.
  • If you can, train with someone else. It helps to have some support.
  • Group classes are a great way to exercise, make friends, and have fun.
  • Drink water, eat well, and get enough rest.

The Neolife team wishes you a wonderful new year, full of opportunities and health awareness


(1) (2019). “Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health”. World Health Organization. URL: https://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/pa/en/

(2) Booth, F.W. et. al. (2017). “Role of inactivity in chronic diseases: evolutionary insight and pathophysiological mechanisms”. Physiol Rev. Vol. 97(4): 1351-1402. URL: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6347102/

(3) Pahani & Tremblay (2018). “Sedentariness and health: Is sedentary behavior more than just physical inactivity?”. Public Health 6:258. URL: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6139309/pdf/fpubh-06-00258.pdf

(4) University of Birmingham. (2019). “It’s never too late to start exercising, new study shows”. ScienceDaily, 30 August 2019. URL: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/08/190830082621.htm

(5) Kyuwoong, K. y otros. (2019). “Changes in exercise frequency and cardiovascular outcomes in older adults”. European Heart Journal. URL: https://academic.oup.com/eurheartj/advance-article/doi/10.1093/eurheartj/ehz768/5613737

(6) Padilla Colón, C.J. et. al. (2014). “Beneficios del entrenamiento de fuerza para la prevención y tratamiento de la sarcopenia”[Benefits of strength training in the prevention and treatment of sarcopenia]. Hosp. Vol. 29(5). URL: https://scielo.isciii.es/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0212-16112014000500004

(7) Hoffmann C. & Weigert C. (2017). “Skeletal muscle as an endocrine organ: the role of myokines in exercise adaptations”. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med 7: a029793. URL: https://perspectivesinmedicine.cshlp.org/content/7/11/a029793.full

(8) Berger E., S. et. al (2019). “Change in cardiometabolic Risk factors associated with magnitude of weight regain 3 years after a 1-year intensive lifestyle intervention in type 2 diabetes mellitus: the look AHEAD trial”. Journal of the American Heart Association. Vol. 8(20). URL: https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/JAHA.118.010951

(9) European Society of Cardiology. “Sedentary lifestyle for 20 years linked to doubled early mortality risk compared to being active”. ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 August 2019. URL: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/08/190831155849.htm