If I were to ask you what are the most important factors and predictors of living a long life, what kinds of things come to mind? Diet, medicines, genetics or heck, even the fountain of youth? Sure, they play a role (well, except that elusive fountain of youth)… Let’s focus on the lifestyle factors since they play a much larger role, in fact, exercise fights aging the most!
Exercise isn’t often on people’s radar as a factor in lifespan. But, muscle strength is one of the strongest predictors of how long you will live.
There has been a pretty significant shift in the exercise industry over the past couple of decades. There used to be a much heavier emphasis on cardio only to stay healthy but over the years it has shifted to include many different types of exercise that combine both cardio and resistance training. Whether you enjoy yoga, pilates, running, HIIT, Tabata, swimming, weight lifting, etc. you’re in luck as long as you are working your body consistently.
How exactly can exercise help with longevity? It’s not just a matter of maintaining a healthy heart and lungs. There is far more happening when you consistently work your body that helps fight aging.
Telomeres are the protein endcaps of our chromosomes. They protect the cell. As we age, and cells replicate, we lose bits of these endcaps. Luckily, research shows that exercise is linked to slowing the loss of these endcaps.
When exercising your blood is moving, which increases oxygen to the brain and makes our brain perform better. Exercise also stimulates the growth of new growth hormones which help to create more brain cells.
If you’re regularly exercising, your bone is constantly adapting and building more bone while becoming less dense. When exercising to improve balance and coordination, you are less likely to fall. This is especially good if you have osteoporosis.
A recent study demonstrated that “regular aerobic exercise has a positive effect on decreasing most of the reported inflammatory markers, including CRP, TNF-a, and IL-6, in healthy middle-aged and older adults.”* Chronic inflammation can lead to immune dysfunction, neuronal problems, tissue dysfunction and many other concerns.
Regular exercise replenishes lubrication to the joint cartilage. As we age, stiffness tends to increase, so this is important as exercise reduces stiffness and pain. It can be hard to stick to a routine, especially with the busyness of our modern-day lives. But, without exercise, we age faster, we experience more joint pain and stiffness, and our cognitive health declines faster. If you’re looking to relieve joint pain, collagen may help.
Exercise doesn’t have to equal strenuous activity. Walks, yoga, workout classes and changing it up have positive effects. The goal is movement. Some days it will be small movements whereas others it will be more intense. Try to make sure you’re getting up and moving about for at least 20 minutes per day you’re on the right track.
People often face finding time for exercise as an issue. A few options to incorporate more movement into your day would be doing things like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, taking a walk on a lunch break, waking up 20 minutes earlier to work out/stretch, and taking five-minute breaks every hour to do squats, pushups, or stretches. The bottom line is that exercise is incredibly important to live optimally. Incorporate it into your life and you won’t regret it!