Exercise and longevity: How to stay active for a long and healthy life

What should we do to live a healthier life for longer? Research shows that there are a few lifestyle interventions that can effectively extend our lives and our health. One of these is exercise, but what kind, and in what combination, and why does it help to add years to our lives? Find out in our latest podcast episode.

Apparently since time immemorial, humanity has been searching, metaphorically speaking, for the path that leads to the “Fountain of Youth” – which is ways to ensure a longer and healthier life.

And although we can’t yet benefit from any “miracle” medicine or technology to extend our lives beyond a hundred years, several recent studies have provided strong evidence in support of the idea that lifestyle changes simple and doable can help you stay. healthy for longer and decrease our risk of premature death.

Research presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2023for example, they suggest that eight healthy habits can slow down biological aging by as much as 6 years.

These habits are related to diet, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding tobacco, maintaining good sleep hygiene, managing cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure, and, not least, staying physically active.

In the last episode of ours In conversation podcast, Medical News Today explores the link between exercise and living a long and healthy life, in dialogue with Dr. Borja del Pozo Cruz and Dr. Edwina (Eddie) Brocklesby.

Dr. del Pozo Cruz is principal researcher in Applied Health Sciences at the University of Cadiz in Spain, and adjunct associate professor in the Department of Sports Sciences and Clinical Biomechanics at the University of Southern Denmark.

In collaboration with other researchers, Dr. del Pozo Cruz has conducted various studies that explore the link between different forms of exercise and the risk of death from various causes.

Dr. Brocklesby gained fame under the nickname “Iron Gran”, as at the age of 72, she was the oldest British woman to complete an Ironman Triathlon. He is also founder and CEO of Silverfit, a non-profit organization that promotes lifelong fitness.

In a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine in August 2023, Dr. del Pozo Cruz and his colleagues analyzed the data of 500,705 participants followed for an average period of 10 years to see how the different forms of exercise relate to the risk of mortality of a person

The study looked at the effect of moderate aerobic physical activity, such as gentle walking or cycling, vigorous aerobic physical activity, such as running, and muscle-strengthening activity, such as lifting of weight

Their findings indicated that a balanced combination of all these forms of exercise worked best to reduce mortality risk.

More specifically, about 75 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, plus more than 150 minutes of vigorous exercise, with at least a couple of strength training sessions per week were associated with a lower risk of all-cause mortality.

When it comes to reducing the risk of death related to cardiovascular disease specifically, Dr. del Pozo Cruz and his colleagues suggest combining a minimum of 150-225 minutes of moderate physical activity with about 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, and two or more strength training. sessions per week.

Dr. Brocklesby, who goes by “Eddie,” is herself an example of the importance of combining different forms of exercise. Indeed, training and participating in a triathlon – which is a multisport endurance race where participants compete in swimming, cycling and running – involves a balanced “diet” of moderate and vigorous exercise, as well as strength training.

But what about people who are not so athletic? What is the minimum “amount” of exercise that could help ward off some of the conditions that pose the highest threat to health?

Dr. del Pozo Cruz and his team may have found an answer to this question. In December 2022, they published the results in a previous study in the European Heart Journal.

This research suggested that engaging in vigorous exercise for just 2 minutes a day could help reduce the risk of cancer-related death or cardiovascular events.

The researchers found that study participants who had never engaged in vigorous exercise had a 4% risk of dying in 5 years, but the introduction of less than 10 minutes of vigorous activity weekly halved this risk. In addition, their risk of death was reduced by half again for those who engaged in at least 60 minutes of exercise per week.

In our podcast, Dr. del Pozo Cruz emphasized that almost any amount of any form of exercise is better than none, a point reinforced by a new study that argues that any activity at all is better for heart health than a sedentary lifestyle.

However, he also warned that physical activity related to tasks or work, as opposed to exercise in a leisure context, can sometimes do more harm than good.

Once again, his idea is supported by recently published research, which found a link between physically demanding occupations and a higher risk of cognitive impairment.

Some of the most common occupations related to intensive physical activity mentioned in this research were in nursing and care, retail, and farming, where individuals are a lot on their feet, and often have to face stressful situations.

So, while all forms of exercise can be good for health, intense or intensive physical activity in a work environment could end up compounding the risk of various health conditions.

And even exercise for leisure can affect aspects of physical health – such as the integrity of joints – especially later in life. In our podcast, Dr. del Pozo Cruz and Eddie emphasized the importance of consulting a trusted health care provider, who can advise on the best forms of exercise to engage in on an individual basis.

To learn more about how and why different forms of exercise can support longevity, and to hear the story of how Edwina became an “Iron Gran,” listen to our podcast episode in full below or on your platform favorite streaming service.

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