Great Health Guide
EXERCISE & LONGEVITY
Keeping active adds years to your life & life to your years
It’s no secret that being physically active contributes to a long, healthy life, but just what types of exercise should you be doing to maximise your lifespan? Across the world, different cultures have unique ways of keeping active for life. According to the Blue Zones Longevity study, some fishermen from Japan never retire and some of the women dance vigorously well into their nineties. The long-lived Costa Ricans also perform physical labour for their whole lives and enjoy it.
In the Western world, we don’t tend to stay in a manual handling role for our whole lives. We swap the tools for the desk and count down the days until retirement. But we do need to keep moving our muscles well into our later years, to maximise quality of life and overall function. HOW DOES PHYSICAL ACTIVITY BECOME ANTI-AGING?
Aging is a natural and complex process, influenced by genetics, environment and psychosocial factors. Research finds that exercise works in the following ways to
• Protection of the blood vessels against plaques and blockages.
• Reduction in systemic inflammation levels.
• Lowered risk of cardiovascular disease.
• Improved quality of muscle and bone tissue.
The most significant scientific discovery, however, is the fact that regular exercise can help you live longer by lengthening
Keeping active adds years to your life, & life to your years.
your telomeres. Telomeres act like caps on the end of your DNA strands, stopping them from fraying and shortening, like the plastic at the end of your shoelaces. Lengthening the telomeres by engaging in regular endurance exercise (3 x 45 minute sessions per week) protect against cellular ageing, improve the regenerative capacity of cells and overall contribute to healthy ageing.
It’s thought that these benefits, particularly associated with endurance (aerobic) exercise, keep us alive for longer due to our evolutionary biology. Our ancestors had to travel by foot for long distances to stay alive and preserve the species, something which our modern life has certainly eradicated.
WHAT TYPES OF EXERCISE CAN EXTEND OUR LIVES? 1. Regular, medium intensity exercise:
One common thread from studies in longevity, is to keep doing something that you love. If you are a keen golfer and you play regularly, that becomes your life-extending exercise. If you used to dance, find a local community class to get moving again. The best advice is to use your whole body, at a medium intensity, for several hours a week.
2. Balance training:
Another commonly overlooked method of keeping young on the inside, is balance training. Most people don’t know their balance is deteriorating until they literally lose balance. However, a lot can be done to preserve this important function. The balance centre in the brain learns by being slightly unsteady, therefore completing tasks which make you wobble are the key.
Try this for balance: while performing a daily task such as brushing your teeth or combing your hair, stand on one leg to fire up the balance response, to keep you agile for years to come.
In summary, you might like to think of exercise as a fancy anti-aging night cream, however it’s for your DNA – and it’s free! If you’re not sure where to start, an Accredited Exercise Physiologist is the right health professional for you.
Jennifer Smallridge is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist at Upwell Health
Collective in Camberwell, Victoria; as well as an Academic Lecturer in the fields of Exercise Science and Functional Human Anatomy.