Imagine that there was a magic elixir that extended our lives, made us stronger, happier and healthier overall. But best of all, we’d look and feel younger.

Now imagine that it was already here, all over the world, available pretty much for free, every day, whenever you chose to utilise it. The truth is, that ‘magic pill’ isn’t hard to find—it’s called exercise. 

No, really, exercise is a miracle solution to just about any ailment, muscle or joint disorder, as well as neural health—and that’s just the beginning.  Despite all the scientific evidence touting the extensive benefits of exercise, most people still find it very difficult to prioritise.

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Photo: Victor Freitas/

“Exercise is a miracle drug,” said US sports medicine physician Jordan D. Metzl in a recent TIME magazine special edition (entitled The Science of Exercise). “I’m such a believer it’s the key to health, wellness and longevity that I prescribe it to every patient I see.” In fact, he's such a proponent of exercise that he holds free outdoor exercise classes for anyone who cares to sign up.

If you regularly exercise, he says: “Your medical costs will be lower, you’ll sleep better at night and your workdays will be more productive. Your mood will improve and your risk of developing almost any chronic disease will drop.”

Intelligent Fitness
At Flex Studio, our mantra has always been—and still is—about Intelligent Fitness. By this, we mean that regular, correct movement in general is the key to staying well, feeling good and fighting off disease. You get the benefits of a body (and complexion) you’re proud to show off, but the main goal is to live better for longer.

In this and regular health columns, I will go further into detail about how the body and mind are enhanced by regular, effective exercise. I will also give examples of how to make smarter choices when it comes to buying food, items for your home in general and dietary choices to complement your workouts or detox programmes.

Heather Thomas Shalabi (Photo: Courtesy of Flex)

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The proof in telomeres
In early 2017, Preventive Medicine reported that people who exercised the most had biological ageing markers that appeared nine years younger than those who were sedentary.

Why? It’s all about telomeres, or protein caps on the ends of human chromosomes, that are markers of ageing and overall health. Every time a cell replicates, a tiny bit of telomere is lost, so they get shorter with age. But, they shrink faster in some people than in others.

Through a multi-year survey run by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people were asked what physical activities they had done in the past month and how vigorously they did them. They also provided DNA samples, from which the researchers measured telomere length.

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After adjusting for smoking, obesity, alcohol use, gender, race and other factors, they found that people who exercised the most had significantly longer telomeres than those who were sedentary. The difference was about nine years of cellular aging, the study indicated.
The benefits of exercise
The awareness of the benefits of exercise has slowly filtered into the general consciousness here in Hong Kong. I am finding the concept that exercise is the key to a happier life overall is finally being taken seriously, as seen by the rise of the corner gym and ‘traffic jams’ on hiking trails.

Yet doing it right, that is, moving the correct way for your body and finding a schedule that you can stick with and—wow—actually enjoying it, is the major step for those who have yet to get off their desk chair. I know that many still see exercise as a chore, a pastime, something you were ‘made’ to do at school and then forgot about when work took over. 

I believe that soon enough, regular intelligent movement will finally be recognised as the solution to many of our health and wellness woes and that exercise will instead be termed ‘health care’.

Done the right way, with professional advice if you so require, exercise can transform your health, your appearance, vitality, and in turn, lead to a longer, more pain-free life.

Start practicing intelligent movement with a variety of group fitness classes offered at

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Tags: Fitness, Exercise, Telomeres