Move More, Live Longer
People today are living longer and remaining active and healthy longer. People who live in the United States today can expect to live to the age of 78 on average. A century ago, life expectancy was about 54 years. Genetics, access to health care, access to healthy food, weight, lifestyle choices and plain old luck all play into longevity.
Researchers have long known that regular physical activity can enhance health in many ways. Exercise helps keep bones, muscles and joints strong. It can help keep blood pressure and weight at healthy levels. Being physically active can reduce your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers. Despite these benefits, many Americans remain inactive. They're not moving for more than half the day.
How much exercise do you really need? Here are some guidelines from the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans:
- Adults: Per week, aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity or a combination of the two.
- Older adults: Still aim for at least 150 minutes per week if you are healthy. Be sure to include exercises that help to improve or maintain your balance. Did you know that you can still build muscle well into your 80s and 90s? It's true, and it may help keep you mobile and independent throughout your life. So, in addition to your aerobic activity, the Guidelines recommend adding strength training to your routine at least twice per week!
In a study from 2012, researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), Harvard, and other notable institutions pooled data regarding the exercise habits of more than 650,000 people. They concluded that people who got no exercise were more likely to die an early death, and that getting physical activity led to a longer life. Here's how they broke down the study results:
- People who said they achieved the recommended level of activity gained 3.4 years of life compared to inactive people.
- People who reported getting twice the recommendation added 4.2 years to their lives.
- People who got half of the recommended level gained 1.8 years.
NCI researcher Steven C. Moore, PhD, MPH, was quoted saying “In this study we saw that if you don't do any activity, doing some will give you a benefit in terms of life expectancy. And if you currently do some activity, doing more will probably give you even greater benefits.”
Perhaps the fountain of youth isn't a myth after all. You just might collect its benefits at the gym, along the hiking trail or on the ball field. Make physical activity a part of your healthy lifestyle.
Young at Heart — Lifestyle choices that really matter
No one has ever found the fountain of youth, although a few claim they have the secret to prevent aging. While there's no magic pill for staying young, healthy lifestyle changes you make now could help keep you strong and healthy as you age.
According to a study done by Northwestern University in 2012, making healthy choices starting in your 20s could reduce disease risk when you reach middle age. Even if you have a family history of chronic disease such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease! These healthy lifestyle choices include:
- Not smoking
- Limiting alcohol, if you choose to drink at all
- Getting enough sleep
- Being physically active
- Eating a healthy diet
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Having a strong support network
Don't despair if you're already past your 20s. It's never too late to reap benefits from a healthy lifestyle change. This month's newsletter focuses on how regular physical activity can enhance a healthy life and may even extend your life.
- NIH News in Health. Can You Lengthen Your Life? 6/2/2017 https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/jun2016/feature1. (Accessed 6/8/2017)
- NIH Research Matters: A Little Exercise Might Lengthen Life 12/3/2012
- https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/little-exercise-might-lengthen-life. (Accessed 7/20/2017)
- 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans https://health.gov/paguidelines/ (Accessed 6/8/2017)