It is the news that all sloths have been waiting for. Scientists in Germany have found that too much exercise is bad for you and that doing less could lengthen your life.
In a new book called The Joy of Laziness: How to slow down and live longer, Dr Peter Axt, retired professor of health science at Fulda University near Frankfurt, and his daughter, Dr Michaela Axt-Gadermann, a GP, say that everybody has a limited amount of “life energy” and that the speed with which it is consumed determines their life span.
They argue that high-energy activities, such as pounding the treadmill at the gym, accelerates the ageing process and makes the body more susceptible to illness.
“A more relaxed way of life is important for your health,” said Dr Axt-Gadermann. “If you lead a stressful life and exercise excessively, your body produces hormones which lead to high blood pressure and can damage your heart and arteries.”
The book also says that laziness is good for the brain. It says that exercise and stress can cause the body to produce the hormone cortisol, which can damage cells in the brain and lead to memory loss and premature senility.
To illustrate the theory that laziness equals longevity, The Joy of Laziness also suggests that early risers are more prone to stress and that late sleepers live longer because they conserve their energy. “People who would rather laze in a hammock instead of running a marathon, or who take a nap instead of playing squash, have a better chance of living into old age.”
Dr Axt and his daughter advise readers that gentle walking, their own preferred form of exercise, is sufficient to keep people in shape if combined with a sensible diet that is low in carbohydrates and high in protein.
“We try to put our own ideas into practice but this does not mean that we do nothing all day,” said Dr Axt-Gadermann. “Laziness should not be to the extreme and work is an important part of life, but recreation and relaxation should not be underestimated.”