The Connection Between Fitness and Longevity: The Science of Staying Young

istock_000014236007xsmallOne of the secrets of staying young and healthy is being physically fit. Fitness for longevity is about engaging in cardiovascular exercise, not about maintaining a specific weight. You can increase your longevity just by improving your level of physical activity and fitness. In fact, vigorous exercise three times a week can make you nine years younger. Physical fitness also improves brain health and protects against genetic degradation that can lead to medical disorders and diseases.

Focus on Fitness, Not Weight Loss

People of normal weight who do not actively participate in fitness have a shorter life expectancy than those who are overweight but still physically active. A study enrolled 2,600 men and women over 60 to evaluate the impact of exercise on longevity. The study evaluated cardiovascular performance using a treadmill. Over a period of twelve years, researchers found the least physically fit 20 percent were twice as likely to die over the 12 year period as the next least fit group. The study also found it didn’t matter if the subjects were of normal weight, overweight or obese, but how they performed on the treadmill.

The results of this study lead to some simple conclusions. Walking is an excellent exercise for longevity, even if it does not result in weight loss. Focus on exercising more often if you can’t work out as intensively due to injury or schedule. Physiological benefits include reduced blood pressure, reduced cholesterol, and reduced chance of osteoporosis.

Fitness, Brain Health, and Longevity

When it comes to brain health, exercise is critical to longevity. Cardiovascular exercise is particularly important for senior citizens because it helps preserve cognitive function and protects against life-threatening strokes. Regular exercise and physical fitness also keeps blood pressure low and blood vessels healthy, which results in lower rates of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and depression.

Fitness, DNA Health, and Longevity

DNA is a complex molecule that forms the building blocks of life. While the science behind DNA may leave you feeling perplexed, research in the field of fitness and DNA is relatively simple to understand. Think of a strand of your DNA as a long piece of healthy hair. As it gets stressed from lack of care and nutrition, it becomes brittle and breaks off, leaving the hair shorter and split at the end. Human DNA undergoes similar shortening as a result of the aging process. Telomeres, which are the protective ends of your chromosomes, shorten as you age. DNA shortening has been directly linked to high blood pressure, cancer, and mental disorders. Vigorous exercise for at least 3 hours a week keeps telomeres from shortening by removing free radicals from the bloodstream.

Working out 3 times a week can increase longevity, regardless of your specific weight. Studies have shown that exercise protects the body from some of the most common and debilitating diseases associated with aging. Physical fitness improves brain health by protecting against memory loss and mental disorders. Scientists have also linked fitness to genetic health, showing that those who exercise regularly protect their bodies against disease and live longer.


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