Active Lifestyle & Longevity: Can Exercise Add Years To Your Life?

By February 4, 2021No Comments
Active lifestyle & longevity

An active lifestyle and longevity have a direct correlation. Physical fitness and regular exercise help in lowering health risks and make you less susceptible to diseases. Read on to know more about the dos and don’ts  

Older fit individuals have many of the functional characteristics of younger people so it could be argued that improved physical fitness slows down the ageing process and offers some protection to health and possible longevity.

Recent findings suggest that participation in athletics as a young adult does not necessarily ensure increased longevity. However, substantial safeguard is provided for health and longevity, if physical activity is maintained throughout life. Vigorous regular exercise has the greatest effect in terms of extending life. People who expend at least 1,500 kilocalories weekly in vigorous activities such as jogging, brisk walking or fast cycling for 45 minutes to an hour, 3 or 4 times a week, have a 25% lower death rate compared to most sedentary men. The benefits of vigorous exercise are also seen among smokers or those overweight.

For most people, regular physical activity also protected one from heart attack and stroke. Although, it is well established that one’s level of physical activity is associated with health risk, an important question is whether a sustained increase in regular activity reduces the risk of disease. Due to lifestyle changes and heart disease, it is important to become more physically active on a regular basis and at the same time reduce health risks by quitting smoking, maintaining optimal body weight and controlling blood pressure.

Various personal characteristics and environmental factors that are related to susceptibility to Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) have been identified in the past 30 years. The following is a list of risk factors that identify men, women and children at high or low risk for CHD. It seems logical to assume that elimination or reduction of one or more risk factors will cause a corresponding decrease in the probability of contracting CHD.

    • Diet
    • Elevated blood lipids
    • Hypertension
    • Cigarette smoking
    • High uric acid levels
    • Sedentary lifestyle
    • Obesity
    • Diabetes
    • Tension and stress

High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol is known as the “good” cholesterol because it helps remove other forms of cholesterol from your bloodstream. Higher levels of HDL cholesterol are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. Such levels are elevated in endurance athletes and those who engage in either vigorous aerobic training or more moderate levels of regular exercise.

Regular physical activity protects against heart disease. The relative risk of a fatal heart attack among sedentary individuals is approximately twice that of more active men and women. The maintenance of physical fitness throughout life also provides significant protection for CHD risk factors.

Aerobic exercise prevents Coronary Heart Disease in the following ways:

1. Improves myocardial circulation and metabolism to protect the heart from hypoxic stress.

2. Establishes more favourable blood-clotting characteristics.

3. Normalises the blood lipid profile.

4. Alters heart rate and blood pressure so that heart functions more effectively during exercise.

5. Achieves a more desirable body fat distribution.

6. Provides a favourable outlet to psychological stress and tensions.

For an adult, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends at least 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity training. This could not only prevent cardiovascular ailments but also prevent other chronic illnesses such as hypertension, Type-2 diabetes and cancer.

There are 10 habits linked to a long life in conjugation with physical exercise.

  • Eat more nuts
  • Avoid overeating
  • Eat plenty of healthy plant foods
  • Do not smoke
  • Moderate your alcohol intake
  • Prioritise your happiness
  • Avoid chronic stress and anxiety
  • Nurture your social circle
  • Drink coffee or tea
  • Sleep well

While any amount of exercise adds to life expectancy, the more you exercise, the greater the benefit.

High-Intensity Intervals

The scientific consensus is that it is best to include some vigorous activity as part of your exercise regimen and the approach that has generated the most excitement when it comes to longevity is called high-intensity interval training, which involves alternating between very intense bouts of action and exercise at a more leisurely pace during a workout.

Walking Around

The more time you spend sitting, the higher your risk of an early death. Taking a break every 30 minutes significantly lowers your risk. Try setting an alarm to remind yourself to get up and walk around every half hour while you are sitting or get up and do something during the commercial breaks while you are watching TV.

Work On Your Balance

Can you stand on one leg with your eyes closed for more than 10 seconds? Good balance also can help prevent falls. Yoga can improve your balance, but so can working a few key exercises into your daily life. Try standing on one leg while you hold onto a chair or table.

In the end, what is important is not just how long you live, but how well you live. Physical activity is essential for maintaining your overall quality of life as you age. Older people who exercise are healthier, stronger, sleep better, perform daily tasks more easily and are less likely to experience cognitive decline. So if longevity is important to you, choose a workout you enjoy and make sure you adhere to it.

Sanjai Banerji

Sanjai Banerji

Started running at the age of 48 in 2008 and has run more than 50 half marathons, marathons and ultra-races in 13 cities in India and abroad. In 2019, he became one of the oldest Indians to run in the top three marathons in Asia (Mumbai, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore). His book, ‘Crossing the Finish Line’ was published in 2019.

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