More than just a vital component of maintaining optimal health, regular physical exercise is one of the most impactful lifestyle interventions for longevity.
Compared to being inactive, studies have found that exercising can reduce all-cause mortality by up to 30%. Experts have deemed the benefits of transitioning from a sedentary lifestyle to an active exercise regimen comparable to the health differences between smokers and non-smokers.
Research also suggests that patients who stop exercising or fail to exercise throughout their lives experience a heightened risk for disease and mobility loss and an overall lower life expectancy. On the other hand, older adults who exercise regularly are more likely to experience improvements in many areas of health: mental health, emotional, psychological, and social well-being, and cognitive function. And daily physical activity can reverse specific age-related processes, prevent heart disease and cancer, and optimize organ health, among its numerous other benefits.
Not all exercises are created equal. So, what is the optimal exercise regimen for elongating the lifespan and promoting long-term health and happiness? Experts in the field continue to explore this question while new research reveals more about the ideal routine for longevity.
The Latest Research On Exercise And Longevity
A new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that an exercise routine comprised of either aerobic exercise or strength training was associated with a lower risk of death.
As part of their trial, researchers evaluated National Health Interview Survey data from 1997 to 2014. Survey participants completed questionnaires regarding the type of physical activity they engaged in, including their level of moderate or vigorous exercise and the number of muscle-strengthening exercise sessions they completed weekly.
After the researchers adjusted for age, gender, income, education, marital status, and chronic conditions, they found that participants who engaged in one hour of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise weekly had a 15% lower mortality risk.
Furthermore, their findings revealed that mortality risk decreased by 27% in participants who engaged in three hours of weekly moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise.
However, the lowest mortality risk was reported in participants who also completed one to two weekly strength-training sessions. These individuals had a 40% lower mortality risk than those who did not exercise; this difference can be compared to the mortality risk between a non-smoker and a person who smokes half a pack of cigarettes per day.
Longevity Boost: Strength Training
Strength training is increasingly recognized as an essential component of an effective, healthful exercise regimen. To counter are-related progressive reductions in muscle mass, regular strength training can promote muscle strength and support aging patients’ ability to function at higher levels for longer.
As part of a meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers assessed the direct impact of strength training on longevity. The study’s authors reported that the most significant reduction in all-cause mortality risk was associated with between 30 and 60 minutes of strength training each week, which resulted in a 10-20% decrease in mortality risk, cardiovascular disease, and cancer risk.
According to sports scientist and one of the study’s authors Haruki Momma, there is a need for much more research in this area to determine the optimal amount of strength training required to reduce all-cause and disease-specific risks.
Aerobic Exercise + Strength Training = A Longer, Happier Life
The latest research concludes that the most significant mortality risk reduction can be achieved with 1-3 hours of aerobic exercise and 1-2 strength training workouts per week. In creating an effective exercise regimen, it is crucial to maintain a consistent schedule, avoid overuse injuries with recovery days, and make engaging in physical activity a habit.
This lifestyle intervention can not only boost patient lifespan and improve health outcomes, but it can also significantly improve quality of life – especially as they age.
“When I ask people, ‘What does successful aging mean to you?’ people say they want to be independent, they want to maintain their function and quality of life, they want to do the things that they want to do,” Kenneth Koncilja, a gerontologist at the Cleveland Clinic, shared in a recent New York Times article, “It’s not necessarily just living as long as possible.”