Did you know that Japan has the highest level of centenarians in the world? This long life expectancy is prominent across the islands of Okinawa. These Japanese islands top the list when one searches for the elixir of life, the fountain of youth, and other similar phrases.
Similarly, places like Sardinia, San Marino, Loma Linda, etc. have communities that enjoy a very healthy and long life span. (see also; What Do The Blue Zones Have In Common?)
So, what exactly does Okinawa’s land of eternal youth have in common with other high life expectancy spots in the world?
One word. Exercise!
How Is Longevity Linked To Exercise?
Several studies have shown that getting up from your sedentary pose to exercise daily does indeed extend your lifespan. We are not talking about low-energy activities but exercises that increase your heart rate and get you sweating.
Exercise not only helps you get into flattering dresses but also shaves off the risk of age-related diseases such as strokes, heart attacks, diabetes, etc. It helps slow down the deterioration of cells, reverses the damage, and may even help reconstruct cells affected by aging.
We have long associated aging with growing weak, but this can easily be countered with exercise. Getting into a habit of regular exercise will not only strengthen your muscles and fulfill any short-term goals, but it will also add healthy years to your life.
What is the recommended level of exercise, and what are some of the best exercises that could help boost your time on earth?
Best Exercises For Longevity
Since research has shown that exercises add years to your life, they have helped recommend the required duration and intensity of exercise for the beneficial effects. The US guidelines suggest 150 to 300 minutes of weekly moderate to high-intensity exercises can add up to 7 years to your lifespan.
This does not mean if you cannot meet the specified duration, you should avoid exercising altogether! Any length of exercise is better than leading a mellowed-out lifestyle.
Now, what are considered to be the best exercises for longevity?
Cardio exercises are great for your heart. Anything that gets your heart muscle pumping strengthens it. However, certain forms of cardio are better from a longevity point of view.
Your health and age factor into the type of cardio exercise you pick up. Older people with joint problems are less likely to keep up with high-intensity workouts. This does not mean lower levels of workouts will not leave an impact. They will have a beneficial effect in the long run without adversely impacting your bone and muscle health.
Include these cardio workouts into your exercise routine for longevity:
- Swimming – This tops the list of beneficial exercises for longevity and cardio health. Additionally, it helps improve memory and prevents cognitive decline as you age. Since it is a low-impact exercise, it does not result in wear and tear on your joints, unlike other exercises.
- Walking – What about casual walks daily? Does walking increase longevity and quality of life? It most certainly does! Your joints fare better, and your ticker gets pumping. You can vary the intensity of walks and select terrains to liven up your walks.
But how many steps are considered essential to get the health benefits of a walk?
Have you heard of the 10,000 step myth?
The myth has recently been debunked! A study has proven that anywhere between 6,000 to 8,000 daily steps is enough for the sake of longevity.
- Cycling – Cycling is a great way to lower stress in your body and enjoy fresh air against a scenic backdrop. You can cycle as a separate part of your exercise routine. Or you can save up on gas and cycle to work daily. Either way, you get dual benefits!
Weekly strength training exercises help lower the risk of premature death by at least 40%. These exercises are often overlooked for their longevity benefits.
Strength training becomes crucial when you hit middle age. At this stage, the ‘use it or lose it’ tagline kicks in. Your strength starts to dwindle, and you start to lose muscle and bone density. Without any strength training, the aging process impacts your functionality, and you start to get weaker.
Regular strength training can help in sustaining stronger bones and help work the bulk of your major muscle groups.
There are plenty of strength training exercises you can do from the comfort of your home. And I'm not talking about pushups, squats and lunges if your in the 50+ age bracket.
You can start with lightweight dumbbells and kettlebells. Here is a list of other exercise equipment suitable for older adults.
You can even use the kitchen bench to do modified push ups and dips. Check out this book by Rangan Chatterjee “Feel Better In 5: Your Daily Plan to Feel Great for Life” where he outline some simple exercises you can do in 5 minutes everyday (plus a load of other simple thing you can incorporate into your daily life that will make you feel better and more alive than you've been in years!
Anything that adds resistance to your body or makes you move against gravity is part of strength training.
Flexibility And Mobility
Flexibility and mobility are crucial in movement. As we grow older, we become stiffer. This restricts movement. However, including exercises that work on mobility and improve the flexibility of our muscles plays a vital role in improving quality of life and enhancing longevity.
Having good mobility reduces the risk of sudden falls and helps in maintaining excellent balance in the later stages of life. Plenty of simple exercises can be incorporated into your daily routine to improve mobility and flexibility. Here are a few examples.
If done in proper form, tightrope walking is beneficial in improving your balance. You do not need to walk across an actual tightrope. Just draw a line on your floor and walk on it one foot at a time with your arms stretched out.
Similarly, a lot of yoga poses work to increase stability. One such move is the tree pose. It is also great for posture. Find a clear spot and stand up straight. Balance yourself and slowly lift one leg up and rest it on your opposite inner thigh. Maintain the tree pose for at least 15 seconds and then repeat with the other leg.
These exercises will help improve your blood flow, enhance balance and coordination, and give your joints and muscles a good range of motion.
What Is The Best Exercise For Longevity? The Takeaway
Exercise in almost any form is crucial in improving your health and increasing longevity. Some studies have shown that exercising with a friend is also a factor in hiking up the years of your life.
While it can seem like quite a task to incorporate various exercises into your busy routine, remember, even the smallest form of exercise can add years to your life!