Jane Brody wrote an article for the New York Times this past January 10th that questions the benefits of dietary supplements like vitamins, minerals and anti-oxidant drinks. She describes what a good diet should be and urges us all to exercise.

…Each year millions of people fall prey to false promises that this, that or the other formula or fortified food can protect their hearts, prevent cancer, improve memory, strengthen their bones, uncreak their joints, build their muscles, even enable them to burn extra calories without moving.

The desire to achieve a healthy old age is laudable indeed, and will be even more so in the future. According to a projection of the century-long rise in life expectancy published in The Lancet in October, more than half the children born since 2000 in wealthy countries can expect to celebrate their 100th birthday.

If so many of us are destined to become centenarians, it is all the more important to be able to enjoy those years unencumbered by chronic disease and disability. There is no virtue in simply living long; the goal should be to live long and well.

But while much is known about how to raise the odds of a healthy old age, only a minority of Americans incorporate into their lives what is likely to give them the biggest bang for their buck. Like the woman in the health food store, they’d rather rely on supplements of vitamins and minerals, fish oils and herbs, perhaps washed down with pricey antioxidant juices.

Unfortunately, sound evidence for the benefits of most such products is sorely lacking; in some cases the best scientific evidence has shown no benefit, and in a few cases has even shown harm…

…we are a long way from consuming the kind of diet most closely linked to a low risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke and dementia. That diet need not be strictly vegetarian, but it should emphasize plant-based foods over the meat and other products that come from animals that eat plants. The closer to the earth we eat, the healthier — and leaner — we are likely to be.

…The second crucial ingredient is regular physical exercise. I know, you’ve heard this song before and you know you should do it, but … fill in the blank: you hate exercise, you have no time, the weather is lousy, the children are sick, you’re injured, you don’t get enough sleep as it is. It’s easy to find reasons not to exercise.

It’s time to stop making excuses and make regular physical activity an integral part of your life, like eating, sleeping and brushing your teeth. You don’t decide every day to do these things, you just do them. Likewise with exercise.

Move for Good Health

The single most effective activity, studies have found, is an aerobic activity like brisk walking — about 30 minutes a day. If you can’t get out of the house, walk inside. Go up and down stairs, walk the hall, walk from room to room, walk in place. If walking doesn’t suit you, try dancing to music.

In a 2006 study of people aged 60 to 79, those who were assigned to walk briskly three days a week for 45 minutes a day experienced an increase in the brain’s volume, especially in regions involved in memory, planning and multitasking.

…Americans have yet to learn what Hippocrates, the father of medicine, recognized in 400 B.C. “All parts of the body which have a function if used in moderation and exercised in labors in which each is accustomed, become thereby healthy, well developed and age more slowly; but if unused and left idle they become liable to disease, defective in growth and age quickly.”

So get off the couch and make this year the year you discover the joys and benefits of movement.