Exercise is well-known to increase longevity by improving health. Every doctor will tell you that.
However, the kinds of exercise that actually work to give you a longer life and the specific health benefits they give aren’t as well-known.
This article links exercise to longevity with research-based findings on its benefits.
Our focus is on how exercise reduces harmful inflammation, which factors into cardiovascular health, and fights the stresses to muscles and arteries that directly decrease our life spans.
How does exercise increase Longevity?
Simply put regular exercise helps improve cardiovascular health and also reduce inflammations which is a key factor in longevity – as inflammation is linked to many health and age related illnesses.
So regular and ever moderate exercise increases has the side benefit of improving your lifespan.
The type of exercise, how you perform it, and how often, will greatly change how effective it is in increasing your longevity.
So let me cover off some options for you
What is the Best Exercise for Longevity?
Taking advantage of the health benefits of exercise means knowing which exercises provide those benefits most efficiently.
The short answer is that moderate aerobic exercise for 30 minutes a day provides a manageable, efficient boost to longevity.
According to Harvard Medical School, as little as 15 minutes a day can increase longevity by 3 years.
Of course, there’s a long answer too, which is that not all exercise is made equal and not all people will benefit equally from the same exercise.
Here are a few basic rules to follow to make exercise work to increase your longevity.
1. Start slowly
Dr. Daniel Forman, geriatrician and cardiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, suggests that rigorous exercise is not the only kind beneficial to longevity.
“Low-intensity exercise can be beneficial,” he says, so long as you “commit yourself to doing it regularly.”
Working up to more rigorous training can be more beneficial than jumping in right away, for a couple of reasons.
The first is purely physical: if you do too much too quickly, you might burn out your body. Aches, pains, and even workout accidents can become an issue if you don’t lean into your routine gradually.
Since doing it every day is more important than doing it rigorously, starting gradually is a good first practice.
The second reason to start slowly is mental.
Making exercise too difficult or time-consuming too quickly may dissuade you from doing it every day.
Instead of shortening your workout, you may just forgo it.
It would be a far better boost to longevity for you to do some exercise regularly than hard exercise periodically.
2. Choose the right workout
Aerobics are the key to using exercise to increase longevity. It’s also called “cardiorespiratory” exercise, and it improves your heart and lungs’ ability to pump oxygen and blood throughout your body.
According to the Harvard Health Blog, 150 to 300 minutes of aerobic activity per week are enough to increase longevity, so long as you do it safely.
Examples of moderate cardio-respiratory activities include walking, swimming, biking, and running.
These activities can be gradually increased to more intense levels, which can decrease the amount of time you need to do them for effective results (Harvard recommends 75 minutes of rigorous activity, if that’s what you prefer).
3. Warm up and cool down
We talked about starting slowly in your overall exercise routine, but it’s important to start slowly even in individual workouts.
Warm up periods of slow activity that gradually increase into your main workout are essential to give your body a chance to ease into a workout.
Everything we’re saying is important for anyone starting a new workout routine, but it’s especially important for older people.
Normalizing your breathing rate during periods of exertion and getting blood flowing to your limbs more gradually by starting slowly is a much safer way to workout.
Cool downs are just as important – it’s why most modern treadmills add them automatically into your running routine.
By easing your body’s blood flow and breathing rate out of the workout state as gradually as it was eased into it, you can avoid the dizziness associated with taking your heart from a vigorous workout down to zero too quickly.
Working out can’t increase longevity if you don’t do it safely, no matter how regularly you do it.
4. Add strength training
When you feel like you’ve gotten the hang of light to moderate aerobic activity for at least 15 minutes per day, you should add in strength training.
This is according to Dr. Lawrence Cahalin, a professor of physical therapy at the Miller School of Medicine, a branch of the University of Miami.
This is because weak or underused muscles can impede your progress when it comes to setting a workout schedule for regular aerobic activity.
Your weak legs may not be able to go for even 15 minutes, especially if you’re overweight.
Just doing “leg lifts,” where you lift your leg up to knee-height while sitting on a bed can help.
Dr. Cahalin recommends wrapping a weight like a soup can around your ankle by putting it in a sock.
This light strength training can get blood pumping to underused muscles and make your moderate workout more manageable.
5. The importance of stretching
Many reputable sources will tell you that stretching is an important aspect of any workout.
David Nolan talked about this on the Harvard Health Blog. He’s a physical therapist at Massachusetts General Hospital through Harvard University.
Flexibility is the key to gaining strength, which is the sign that muscles are healthy and receiving the blood they need.
A full range of motion keeps pain out of your joints and prevents muscles from shortening.
When muscles shorten, they harden, which means that the muscle layers band together around painful knots, reducing your range of motion.
When your range of motion is reduced, this makes other muscles pick up the slack for the tight ones, which can cause them to become overworked.
Stretching allows muscles to work out without “put[ting] too much force on the muscle itself,” according to Nolan.
Which muscles are the most important to stretch?
Expert therapists agree that hamstrings and hip flexors in the pelvis, as well as the quads on the front of the thigh, are the muscles that most impact mobility when they’re tight.
Much of the pain of ageing, which affects quality of life, which in turn affects longevity, comes from these muscles.
Gently stretching them before a workout helps muscles remember to stay limber and pain-free.
This becomes more important when you make the exercise more rigorous or when you’re an older person just getting into exercise.
6. Give up excuses
This is all about mentality, but it’s important enough to warrant its own section in this guide to using exercise to increase longevity.
This is mainly because your lack of commitment to a regular program, even if it’s just 15 minutes of aerobics a day, is the single biggest obstacle between you and increased longevity.
If you feel you don’t have time to do your whole workout, increase the intensity (within your limits).
If you don’t have weights to do leg strengthening exercises, tie a soup can to your foot using a sock and lift that instead.
If you don’t have a treadmill, walk once around your neighborhood, remembering to stretch first, start slowly, and cool down so you don’t get dizzy.
Starting slowly with a workout routine helps those with commitment issues convince themselves to be devoted to it.
You can gradually increase the time later once you get used to the routine. Starting with too much too quickly can turn into an excuse like, “I don’t have time to workout” or “My muscles can’t handle the strain.”
Ease yourself into a routine so you can make the most of the time. Exercise cannot increase longevity if you don’t do it for a long time.
Does Running Increase Your Lifespan?
The amount of blood and air that your heart and lungs have to pump each day is astounding.
Running is an aerobic exercise that is accessible to anyone.
As we mentioned, doing this or a similar activity for at least 15 minutes a day has been shown to increase longevity by approximately 3 years on average by getting that blood and air to its destinations more efficiently.
Knowing the right way to do it will maximize its effect. Runners need to take care of their spines by investing in athletic shoes with good support.
They need to make sure they do proper stretching, warming up, and cooling down routines to maximize circulation, improve muscle flexibility, and maintain basic workout safely.
Conclusion – Keeping Fit For improved Lifespan
Exercise increases longevity, but only when it’s performed regularly. Knowing your needs in terms of age, circulation, balance, and intensity will help you make a program that works for you.
You don’t need to overdo it or become a gym rat to improve your longevity
Older people will naturally need to take things more slowly, there’s no need to overdo it as that will have the opposite affect and could cause injury
Everyone can benefit from taking it gradually so that your body gets used to the pumping, stretching, and exertion that you put it under.
Just 15 minutes a day can increase your longevity by 3 years, according to the Harvard Medical School.
It only works if you do it safely, and you do it every day. And Enjoy it !
Before you go why don’t you have a browse around my other longevity specific articles?
I’m Chris Watson & the Founder of EatForLonger.com. I’m a food and wellbeing enthusiast researching and sharing foodstuffs and simple food-based concepts, such as fasting and clean eating.
I hope it inspires you to make tiny changes to what you eat and when you eat while optimizing your healthspan and all-around well-being.
Read more About Me here.