Exercise for Longevity

One of the 6 Pillars of Longevity

The Ultimate Guide to Exercise for Longevity, 2024

Exercise is a must if you want to live a long and healthy life. Exercise is considered one of the most impactful longevity pillars, so we’ve taken our time to break down all you need to know. There are four key elements of a well-rounded exercise for longevity program: aerobic, strength, balance, and flexibility training, and we detail them all below.

4 Key Elements of Exercise

Adopting a well-rounded physical activity routine that includes a mix of aerobic, strength, flexibility, and balance exercises can optimize your health and promote longevity.

Cardio

A guide to balanced aerobic activity for health and longevity.

Strength

A guide to strength training for longevity.

Flexibility

Flexibility practices for staying limber and healthy with aging.

Balance

A guide to balance and stability training for preventing falls and maintaining stability.

An Overview of Exercise for Longevity

Regular exercise can help you live longer.1 Reimers CD, Knapp G, Reimers AK. Does physical activity increase life expectancy? A review of the literature. J Aging Res. 2012;2012:243958. doi: 10.1155/2012/243958. Epub 2012 Jul 1. PMID: 22811911; PMCID: PMC3395188. PubMed Source It’s like a magic potion for your health, strengthening your bones, boosting your mood, and helping to prevent serious illnesses. These include heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and even some types of cancer, which are major contributors to premature mortality.

Moreover, exercise promotes longevity not only by positively impacting multiple body systems and organs but also by activating several cellular pathways that foster longevity.2 Carapeto PV, Aguayo-Mazzucato C. Effects of exercise on cellular and tissue aging. Aging (Albany NY). 2021 May 13;13(10):14522-14543. doi: 10.18632/aging.203051. Epub 2021 May 13. PMID: 34001677; PMCID: PMC8202894. PubMed Source

If you’re worried that incorporating regular physical activity into your routine will take up a lot of time, recent research reveils that it is not a case. According to a study involving 71,893 adults, just 15-20 minutes of high-intensity exercise per week could lead to a 16-40% reduction in the risk of death.3 Ahmadi, Matthew N et al. “Vigorous physical activity, incident heart disease, and cancer: how little is enough?.” European heart journal vol. 43,46 (2022): 4801-4814. doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehac572 PubMed Source What’s more, the benefits increased even further with up to 50-57 minutes of vigorous activity per week.

The key takeaway from this large-scale study is that high-intensity exercises don’t need to be done in one go. The significant benefits are observed even when the activity is broken down into short bursts throughout the week, as little as 2 mins per day.

When discussing exercise for longevity, four essential components come to the forefront: aerobic training, strength training, flexibility training, and balance training.4 Eckstrom E, Neukam S, Kalin L, Wright J. Physical Activity and Healthy Aging. Clin Geriatr Med. 2020 Nov;36(4):671-683. doi: 10.1016/j.cger.2020.06.009. Epub 2020 Aug 19. PMID: 33010902. PubMed Source Let’s delve into these components to understand how each contributes to a long, healthy life.


Cardio for Longevity

Regular aerobic activity is essential for longevity, improving cardiovascular health, brain function, and reducing the risk of chronic diseases

Aerobic or cardiovascular training, often called cardio, is a crucial component of a well-rounded exercise routine with profound implications for longevity. It is the cornerstone of any fitness program. Cardio involves any form of exercise that increases your heart rate and breathing for an extended period. Activities like running, swimming, cycling, and even brisk walking fall under this category.

Aerobic activity is a potent lifestyle intervention that can significantly extend life expectancy.5 Posis AIB, Bellettiere J, Salem RM, LaMonte MJ, Manson JE, Casanova R, LaCroix AZ, Shadyab AH. Associations of Accelerometer-Measured Physical Activity and Sedentary Time With All-Cause Mortality by Genetic Predisposition for Longevity. J Aging Phys Act. 2022 Aug 24;31(2):265-275. doi: 10.1123/japa.2022-0067. PMID: 36002033; PMCID: PMC9950283. PubMed Source When discussing cardio for longevity, it is essential to understand its importance and the most effective dose to achieve maximum benefits.

Why is cardio so crucial for longevity? Learn more:

Cardio training strengthens the heart, a muscle that needs to be worked out just like any other in the body. Regular exercise makes the heart more efficient at pumping blood throughout the body, delivering oxygen and nutrients to the tissues more effectively.6 Fletcher GF, Balady GJ, Amsterdam EA, Chaitman B, Eckel R, Fleg J, Froelicher VF, Leon AS, Piña IL, Rodney R, Simons-Morton DA, Williams MA, Bazzarre T. Exercise standards for testing and training: a statement for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2001 Oct 2;104(14):1694-740. doi: 10.1161/hc3901.095960. PMID: 11581152. PubMed Source This increased efficiency can result in lower resting heart rates and blood pressure, two key indicators of cardiovascular health and, by extension, longevity.

Furthermore, cardio training can help maintain a healthy weight, another essential factor for longevity. By burning calories, cardio exercise aids in weight management and prevents obesity, a condition linked to numerous chronic diseases.7 Swift DL, Johannsen NM, Lavie CJ, Earnest CP, Church TS. The role of exercise and physical activity in weight loss and maintenance. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2014 Jan-Feb;56(4):441-7. doi: 10.1016/j.pcad.2013.09.012. Epub 2013 Oct 11. PMID: 24438736; PMCID: PMC3925973. PubMed Source It also improves lung capacity, blood cholesterol levels, and insulin sensitivity, reducing the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

One of the most significant aspects of cardio for longevity is its impact on the brain.8 Colcombe S, Kramer AF. Fitness effects on the cognitive function of older adults: a meta-analytic study. Psychol Sci. 2003 Mar;14(2):125-30. doi: 10.1111/1467-9280.t01-1-01430. PMID: 12661673. PubMed Source Regular cardio exercise improves blood flow to the brain, supporting cognitive functions and mental health. It can help improve memory, reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia, and act as a natural mood enhancer.

On the cellular level, cardio training triggers several anti-aging mechanisms contributing to longevity. This includes activating autophagy, improving mitochondrial health, and the production of heat shock proteins, all of which enhance cellular health and resistance. Essentially, each workout is not just a boost for your heart but a rejuvenating treatment for your cells, promoting overall health and longevity.

How much Cardio training do I need?

150 mins of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 mins of vigorous exercise per week

or to reap even more health and longevity benefits:

300 mins of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 150 mins of vigorous exercise per week

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. This could be broken down to about 30 min of moderate exercise five days a week or approximately 15 minutes of vigorous exercise five days a week. To achieve even greater benefits, 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week is a good aim. Research indicates that the relative risk of dying prematurely continued to decline the more physically active a person was, up until about 450 minutes of moderate activity per week.9Arem H, Moore SC, Patel A, Hartge P, Berrington de Gonzalez A, Visvanathan K, Campbell PT, Freedman M, Weiderpass E, Adami HO, Linet MS, Lee IM, Matthews CE. Leisure time physical activity and mortality: a detailed pooled analysis of the dose-response relationship. JAMA Intern Med. 2015 Jun;175(6):959-67. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.0533. PMID: 25844730; PMCID: PMC4451435. PubMed Source

It’s also important to remember that these are guidelines, and any amount of exercise is better than none. Starting small and gradually increasing the duration and intensity is a valid approach for those new to regular exercise. If you are interested in learning more about how to pick up the best aerobic activity for yourself, please see our guide on this topic.

Remember, cardio for longevity isn’t about becoming an elite athlete. It’s about making regular, manageable physical activity a part of your lifestyle to live a healthier, longer life.


Strength Training for Longevity

Strength training for longevity is an indispensable part of a well-rounded exercise routine.

As a key component of a well-rounded fitness regimen, strength training for longevity deserves special attention. While often associated with bodybuilders and athletes, strength training is important for everyone, especially as we age. Not only does it build muscle mass and increase bone density, but it also contributes to maintaining mobility, balance, and independence as we age.

The aging process is associated with a gradual loss of muscle mass, known as sarcopenia. This decline begins as early as our 30s and accelerates with each passing decade. The implications of this muscle loss are far-reaching: decreased strength, reduced metabolic rate, increased risk of injury, and decreased quality of life. Strength training for longevity is a powerful tool in combating these age-related changes and preserving our physical capabilities.10Krzysztofik M, Wilk M, Wojdała G, Gołaś A. Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Dec 4;16(24):4897. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16244897. PMID: 31817252; PMCID: PMC6950543. PubMed Source

One of the primary benefits of strength training is the maintenance and growth of lean muscle mass. As we age, our bodies naturally lose muscle, leading to a decline in strength and function. By engaging in regular strength training, we can counteract this process and even build new muscle tissue, improving our overall strength and functional abilities. This increased strength can directly impact our ability to perform daily activities, thereby enhancing our quality of life.

Another significant advantage of strength training is improved bone health.11 Layne JE, Nelson ME. The effects of progressive resistance training on bone density: a review. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1999 Jan;31(1):25-30. doi: 10.1097/00005768-199901000-00006. PMID: 9927006. PubMed Source As we age, our bone density gradually decreases, increasing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures. Strength training places stress on the bones, stimulating the bone-building process and helping to preserve or even increase bone density. This can help to prevent age-related bone loss and reduce the risk of fractures, falls, and other injuries.

Strength training for longevity also contributes to better balance and stability. Strong muscles provide a stable base of support and allow for more efficient movement, reducing the risk of falls and injuries. This is particularly important as we age since falls are a leading cause of serious injury among older adults.

Additionally, strength training has been shown to positively impact metabolic health.12 Ihalainen JK, Inglis A, Mäkinen T, Newton RU, Kainulainen H, Kyröläinen H, Walker S. Strength Training Improves Metabolic Health Markers in Older Individual Regardless of Training Frequency. Front Physiol. 2019 Feb 1;10:32. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2019.00032. PMID: 30774600; PMCID: PMC6367240. PubMed Source As we build muscle, our resting metabolic rate increases, helping to maintain a healthy body weight and reducing the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other metabolic disorders. This, in turn, contributes to longevity and overall health.

Why Strength Training?

1. Reduces risk of falls and injuries.
2. Supports bone health.
3. Improves metabolic health.
4. Boosts mental health.


The benefits of strength training are not limited to physical health, as it can also positively affect mental health and cognitive function. It has been shown to alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, boost self-esteem, and improve sleep quality. Emerging research also suggests that strength training may protect the brain, reducing the risk of cognitive decline and dementia in later life.13 Coelho-Junior H, Marzetti E, Calvani R, Picca A, Arai H, Uchida M. Resistance training improves cognitive function in older adults with different cognitive status: a systematic review and Meta-analysis. Aging Ment Health. 2022 Feb;26(2):213-224. doi: 10.1080/13607863.2020.1857691. Epub 2020 Dec 16. PMID: 33325273. PubMed Source

Current guidelines recommend engaging in strength training exercises at least two to three times per week for 30-45 mins sessions each, targeting all major muscle groups, including the legs, arms, back, chest, and core. However, it’s crucial to emphasize consistency over intensity. Even moderate amounts of strength training can provide significant benefits for health and longevity, and it’s never too late to start.

How much Strength training do I need?

30 – 45 mins session 2 -3 times per week

Strength training can be done with various equipment and techniques. Examples of strength training exercises include bodyweight exercises (such as push-ups, squats, and lunges), resistance band exercises, and weight training with dumbbells, kettlebells, or barbells. It’s essential to use proper form and technique when performing these exercises to reduce the risk of injury. As you progress, you can gradually increase the resistance, sets, or repetitions to continue challenging your muscles and promoting growth.

Learn more about how to increase the intensity of training

In conclusion, strength training for longevity is a critical component of any fitness regimen. Its benefits extend far beyond building muscle and strength, profoundly affecting bone health, balance, metabolic rate, and even cognitive function. By investing time in regular strength training, we not only enhance our physical capabilities but also preserve our independence, reducing the risk of falls and improving our quality of life as we age.


Flexibility Exercises for Longevity

You can reap many benefits by incorporating flexibility exercises for longevity into your fitness routine.

In the realm of fitness, flexibility exercises often do not receive the recognition they deserve, especially when it comes to their impact on longevity. Flexibility exercises involve stretching your muscles to improve the range of motion in your joints. This form of training is integral to maintaining a functional quality of life.14La Greca S, Rapali M, Ciaprini G, Russo L, Vinciguerra MG, Di Giminiani R. Acute and Chronic Effects of Supervised Flexibility Training in Older Adults: A Comparison of Two Different Conditioning Programs. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Dec 17;19(24):16974. doi: 10.3390/ijerph192416974. PMID: 36554854; PMCID: PMC9779245. PubMed Source And you can reap many benefits by incorporating flexibility exercises for longevity into your fitness routine.

Flexibility is the ability of your joints and muscles to move through their full range of motion without discomfort or restriction. Typically, as we age, our joint mobility decreases. On average, beyond after the age of 55, shoulder joints experience a reduction in their range of motion by approximately 5 to 6 degrees per decade. Similarly, hip joints also show a decline in their mobility, losing around 6 to 7 degrees per decade.15 Stathokostas L, McDonald MW, Little RM, Paterson DH. Flexibility of older adults aged 55-86 years and the influence of physical activity. J Aging Res. 2013;2013:743843. doi: 10.1155/2013/743843. Epub 2013 Jun 19. PMID: 23862064; PMCID: PMC3703899. PubMed Source A decline in flexibility can lead to decreased physical activity and mobility, increasing the risk of injuries and health complications. By contrast, maintaining good flexibility can help prevent these issues and promote better overall health and quality of life.

One of the primary benefits of flexibility exercises is improved joint health. Flexible muscles are less prone to injury, can better support the joints, and help maintain better balance. This is particularly important as we age, as it can prevent falls, one of the leading causes of serious injury in older adults.

Flexibility exercises also promote better posture and alignment, alleviating common problems such as back pain and muscle imbalances. This can help you remain active and independent for longer. Additionally, good flexibility can enhance performance in other types of exercise, making it easier to stay active and fit.

Improved balance is another significant benefit of flexibility exercises for longevity. By allowing for a greater range of motion, flexibility can help us maintain our center of gravity during movement or when faced with instability. This is particularly important as we age, given that balance tends to deteriorate over time.

Moreover, flexibility exercises positively impact circulation, facilitating better blood flow to the muscles and organs. This improved circulation can aid in delivering nutrients and removing waste products from the body, promoting overall health and longevity.

Interestingly, there’s also a strong link between flexibility exercises and stress relief. Activities like yoga and Pilates stretch the body and focus on mindful movement and breath control, which can have a calming effect on the mind.16Corey SM, Epel E, Schembri M, Pawlowsky SB, Cole RJ, Araneta MR, Barrett-Connor E, Kanaya AM. Effect of restorative yoga vs. stretching on diurnal cortisol dynamics and psychosocial outcomes in individuals with the metabolic syndrome: the PRYSMS randomized controlled trial. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2014 Nov;49:260-71. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2014.07.012. Epub 2014 Jul 21. PMID: 25127084; PMCID: PMC4174464. PubMed Source This mental health aspect is vital for longevity, as chronic stress is a risk factor for many age-related diseases.

Experts suggest incorporating flexibility training into your routine two to three times per week. However, the key is consistency over intensity. Flexibility training doesn’t necessarily require an extensive time commitment. Instead, dedicating just a few minutes each day to this practice, such as including stretching exercises as part of your pre-workout and post-workout routine, can yield significant benefits over time.

How much Flexibility training do I need?

2 -3 times per week plus some pre-and post-workout stretching

To sum up, flexibility exercises for longevity are an integral part of a balanced fitness regimen. They contribute to joint health, good posture, improved circulation, and stress relief, all of which are crucial for a long and healthy life.

Remember, when it comes to longevity, every aspect of fitness counts. While cardiovascular and strength training often takes center stage, flexibility should not be overlooked. Practicing flexibility exercises for longevity is not about being able to do complex yoga poses or splits, but about maintaining the necessary mobility to lead an active, fulfilling life well into your later years.


Importance of Balance Exercises for Longevity

Balance exercises for longevity can help maintain our physical abilities and independence as we age.

Balance and stability are key components of maintaining longevity and overall health. Balance exercises for longevity can help maintain our physical abilities and independence as we age.17McLaughlin EC, El-Kotob R, Chaput JP, Janssen I, Kho ME, Poitras VJ, Ross R, Ross-White A, Saunders TJ, Sherrington C, Giangregorio LM. Balance and functional training and health in adults: an overview of systematic reviews. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2020 Oct;45(10 (Suppl. 2)):S180-S196. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2020-0279. PMID: 33054334. PubMed SourceThey’re central to everyday activities, such as walking and standing, and are critical for preventing falls—a leading cause of injury among older adults.

Balance is the ability to maintain the body’s equilibrium while standing or moving, while stability refers to the ability to maintain or return the body’s position to a desired one after external disturbances. Both balance and stability are crucial for preventing falls and injuries and maintaining proper body alignment during physical activities.

Balance exercises for longevity play a crucial role in maintaining these abilities. As we age, our balance and stability can gradually decline due to factors such as loss of muscle strength, reduced vision, or certain medications. This decline can increase the risk of falls and related injuries, including fractures and head injuries. However, by incorporating balance exercises into our fitness routine, we can mitigate this risk, enhancing both our balance and stability, and thereby our overall health and longevity.

Beyond fall prevention, balance exercises for longevity can also contribute to improved mobility and performance. Good balance and stability allow us to move efficiently and confidently, whether we’re climbing stairs, bending down to tie a shoe, or participating in sports. These exercises can also help improve posture and alignment, which can alleviate common aches and pains and contribute to a better quality of life.

Balance exercises for longevity vary in form but are often simple and require minimal equipment, making them easy to incorporate into a regular fitness routine. Examples include heel-to-toe walks, leg lifts, and exercises that involve standing on one foot. Yoga and tai chi, both of which incorporate elements of balance and stability, are also excellent choices. For those needing more support, chair exercises or exercises using a wall for support can be beneficial.

Research suggests that balance training should be performed two to three times per week for optimal benefits. However, even small bouts of balance exercises integrated into daily activities—such as standing on one foot while brushing your teeth—can contribute to improved balance and stability over time.

Stability exercises, on the other hand, typically involve strengthening the core muscles, which are crucial for maintaining body position and controlling movement. These exercises can include planks, bridges, and leg lifts. As with balance exercises, these can be performed two to three times per week.

How much Balance training do I need?

2 – 3 times per week as short bouts integrated into daily activities or workout

Regularly incorporating these exercises into your routine can help maintain your independence and functionality as you age, ensuring you continue to lead an active, fulfilling life.


Conclusion

In the pursuit of longevity, exercise is not just a cornerstone but a pillar. The combination of aerobic training, strength training, flexibility, and balance exercises can pave the way to a longer, healthier life.

The benefits of a holistic exercise routine echo in our bodies long after the workout session has ended. These benefits are not just reflected in our physical wellness, but also in our longevity. By regularly engaging in a balanced exercise regimen, we’re not just reacting to our current state of health; instead, we’re proactively shaping the trajectory of our future wellness.

Importantly, a consistent and comprehensive exercise routine can significantly offset the onset of age-related diseases. From cardiovascular disease to diabetes, osteoporosis to certain types of cancer, regular exercise can diminish the risk of many common conditions that often accompany aging.

Moreover, exercise improves all areas of health, providing an all-encompassing, restorative effect. Physically, it strengthens our muscles, enhances flexibility, bolsters balance, and invigorates our cardiovascular system. Mentally, it can sharpen cognition, uplift mood, and bolster resilience, acting as a natural antidote to stress, depression, and anxiety.

In this context, exercise stands as a powerful preventive medicine, a tool we can all utilize to ensure our later years are not just more plentiful, but filled with vitality and good health.

Exercise Essentials

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