Three older men playing football in a park.

MOVE

Exercise is key to living longer

  • Exercise can slow the aging process.
  • Moderate physical activity can increase life expectancy.
  • It’s never too late to start moving and reap the benefits.

Want to live longer? Get moving.

We all know that exercise can help you get fit, reduce weight, improve balance and lower your risk for many diseases, such as heart disease. But numerous studies have shown that exercise can actually help you live longer.

This seems logical. After all, if exercise reduces your chance of getting heart disease or cancer, then you’ve reduced your risk of dying from these diseases. But the longevity benefit is not just a result of reducing your risk of chronic disease. There’s actual cellular changes associated with regular exercise that keep you younger. Researchers at Brigham Young University who studied the DNA of nearly 6,000 adults found that the telomeres, the end caps on chromosomes that shorten with age, were longer in people who were active compared to those who were sedentary. This correlated to about 9-year difference in cell aging between those who were active versus those who were inactive.

Another study compared the heart, lungs and muscles of active 70 year olds, inactive 70 year olds and active 40 year olds. They found that the active older men and women had comparable heart and lung capacity and muscle strength of those who were 30 years younger.

The benefits of exercise

Exercise results in other physiological changes that can help slow the aging process:

  • It is anti-inflammatory. Inflammation of muscle and other tissues in the body are associated with aging. Exercise can lessen this effect.
  • Boost mood
  • Improve sleep
  • Improve cognitive function and reduce memory loss
  • Improved immune system
  • Improved digestive function

It's never too late to start exercising

Even if you have been sedentary for many years, it’s not too late to reap the benefits of exercise. Studies have found that people who are overweight or who have been inactive for years can increase their life expectancy by adding moderate physical activity to their routine.

How much exercise?

You don’t have to become an elite athlete to improve your longevity. Regular, moderate activities, such as brisk walking, have been associated with increasing life expectancy by several years. For example, 150 minutes of exercise or more each week increased life expectancy by about 7 years over those who didn’t do regular moderate exercise. This benefit was seen regardless of weight, age, sex and health conditions.

If you haven’t been active or are thinking of increasing your activity, be sure to talk with your doctor. Based on your current health, your doctor may have recommendations for type of activity and how much to get you started.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

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