What Your Exercise Habits Might Say About How Long You’ll Live
A new study shows the importance of consistent exercise into later life in determining lifespan. Previous research has shown that exercise is protective against disease; however, if people stop exercising in their later years then such benefits rapidly disappear.
On a more positive note, a new study suggests that people that commence exercise in midlife, even if they have not exercised for years prior to this point, can rapidly gain most of the longevity benefits associated with regular exercise.
The parts of the globe where people live the longest are often referred to as the ‘blue-zones’. When looking at the so-called ‘blue zones’ across the globe, one common characteristic of these groups, aside from social integration, is a consistent level of exercise that is sustained into old age.
Most research into exercise only monitors participants at one stage of their lives. In this research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, data from 315,059 participants was analysed to determine exercise habits across their lifespan.
Analysis of the data demonstrated that participants who had been sedentary throughout their lives were most likely to have died, particularly from heart disease. Those who were consistently active, were 30 to 35 percent less likely to have passed away and 40 percent less likely to have died of a heart attack.
Exercising Into Old Age is the Key
The most relevant finding from this study was that those that had stopped exercising but commenced again in their 40s or 50s had similar protection against premature death as those who had exercised consistently throughout their lives.
A note of caution also applies to those who think that being fit in their youth can be protective in later years. The study showed that those that were active and subsequently ceased exercise in middle age were as likely as the always-inactive group to have died.
The Common Mistake that Stops People Exercising Consistently
In my experience people often set lofty goals when commencing exercise. For example, they may start running 1k and have the ultimate goal of running 10k or doing a marathon. Some people complete this goal and then stop exercising altogether, or in setting the bar too high, they place too much pressure on themselves and stop exercising altogether. This research demonstrates that consistency is the key when it comes to exercise. For this reason, it is better to keep your exercise enjoyable, rather than turning it into a chore, which can sometimes occur when goals are set that are beyond your capacity to sustain in the longer-term.
The take home message is this: if you are active now, it is critical that it is sustained. Indeed, the older you are, the higher your risk of chronic disease, and therefore, the greater the potential benefit derived from regular exercise.
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