Is looking good in a swimsuit not enough motivation to send you running to the gym? Well, what if working out could add years to your life? Exercise is not only a healthy habit, it could add years to your life and keep you functional even into your twilight years. What is the link between exercise and longevity?
Exercise and Longevity: Can Exercise Help You Live Longer?
One way exercise increases longevity is by reducing the risk of such common killers such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. In a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers tested the fitness levels of almost 14,000 men and women and followed them for 8 years. Even after they controlled for other characteristics and habits that could affect health and longevity, the most-fit group had death rates that were between 3.5 and 4.5 times lower than those in the least-fit group. Who wouldn’t want that kind of benefit?
To get benefits like this, you don’t need to be a marathon runner. Even moderate amounts of exercise seem to boost longevity. On the other hand, vigorous workouts may give you an edge. In one study, vigorous exercise like running or fast cycling reduced mortality in men and women by as much as 35%. Other research shows that regular vigorous exercise can prolong lifespan by as much as 3.5 years.
Less clear-cut is whether low-intensity activity such as gardening or walking at a leisurely pace boosts longevity. Even low-intensity exercise has some health benefits since it increases insulin sensitivity, burns calories and reduces stress. Certainly low-intensity exercise is better than sitting in an easy chair watching T.V. Research has clearly shown that sitting for long periods of time boosts mortality.
Is More Exercise Better?
Researcher suggests that exercise is dose-dependent. This means the more you do, within reason, the more health and longevity benefits you get. There’s probably a point of diminishing returns, and you could harm your health by overtraining, because excessive exercise suppresses the immune system. More exercise is better in moderation, and vigorous exercise seems to be better than taking a leisurely walk.
Is It Ever Too Late to Start?
Research shows that even people who are middle-aged and older can add years to their life by exercising, and it reduces their risk of disability. Exercise slows down the aging process in other ways too. It boosts bone density and reduces the gradual loss of muscle mass that occurs with aging. It improves balance so older people are less likely to take a tumble that leads to a hip fracture. It also reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as hypertension, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. Research even shows it reduces the risk of memory loss associated with aging.
Exercise and Longevity: The Bottom Line?
Exercise can not only add years to your life, it may reduce the risk of spending your later years in a nursing home. The most important thing is to take the time to do it. It’s the best anti-aging medicine around.
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