Fitness as the Fountain of Youth – Science & Stats

people at gymYou might be exercising for health and you might be exercising for your looks—or maybe you’re doing it for the love of sport or desire to compete. Whatever your reasons, it’s good for you!

Of all its benefits, one stands out as a magical effect: lowering your biological age. In other words, exercise can offset the effects of aging, and studies show it can help you live longer.

Regularly exercising throughout your lifetime helps you stay youthful in so many ways. It begins with producing physical changes that reflect a youthful body: lower body fat, stronger muscles and bones, agile movements and more energy for your lifestyle.

But beyond all that, there is plenty going on inside as well, including a stronger heart and lungs, improved circulation, growth for your brain cells and new neuron development, too. These results not only help contribute to the “fountain of youth” effects of exercise, but can literally play a part in helping you live longer.

Exercise and the Science of Longevity

A couple of major research studies have looked to determine how much longer people might live according to their levels of exercise. In one, a team from a Harvard University affiliate and the National Cancer Institute analyzed the health records of more than 650,000 subjects and followed them for an average of 10 years, considering more than 14 years of deaths.

Researchers used this data to estimate lifespan gains for people over 40 who adopt different levels of physical activity. Here is a summary of their findings:

  • 75 minutes of brisk walking or similar activity per week (vs. staying sedentary) equates to 1.8 years longer in life expectancy
  • Double or triple that, and life expectancy increases even more… in fact, someone moving vigorously 450 minutes per week (or a little over an hour per day) may add 4.5 years to their life
  • People who did not exercise at all had the highest risk of premature death; those who exercised a little had a 20% reduced chance of premature death, and those who exercised 3 – 5 times the recommended 75 minutes per week had up to a 39% reduction in premature death rates
  • All benefitted from exercise—men and women, overweight and normal weight—but those of normal weight experienced the best life expectancy results. Teaching us that once we lose the extra pounds, we have plenty of other reasons to exercise!

Another similar study, this time by an Australian team examining the data from 200,000 health survey participants, and again, their activity levels and death information, found similar positive results regarding longevity and exercise, including:

  • Although all exercise helps, the harder you work, the more benefits you can gain—intensity matters when it comes to longevity
  • Meeting the minimum guidelines of 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise or 150 minutes per week of moderate (not breaking as much of a sweat) seems to help lengthen the life span
  • A sweet spot to get the most benefits seems to happen when about 30% of your weekly activity is more rigorous

Let’s break this down into some super simple advice: if you strength train 2 – 3 times per week and add in a vigorous cardio session or two, you’re pretty much covered!

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