Exercise: The Key to Longevity?

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Many of us are in search of better health and a longer life span, but is nutrition or exercise the biggest factor to health? Among the connections of fitness, weight, heart health and longevity, most research says, get moving!

New research says exercise rather than weight loss will be our best bet for longer living. A study, conducted at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, analyzed the results of hundreds of previous studies of weight loss and workouts in men and women and found that exercise could be the golden ticket for longevity.

The average life expectancy in America is 78, but many of us dream of holding out a little longer. If our goal is to endure well into our golden years, we should possibly look past the scale and move toward and onto the treadmill.

Regular and consistent exercise aids more in our goal for a longer life, according to the study. “Compared head-to-head, the magnitude of benefit was far greater from improving fitness than from losing weight,” Dr. Glenn Gaesser, the study’s author, told the New York Times. “You will be better off, in terms of mortality risk, by increasing your physical activity and fitness than by intentionally losing weight.”

The research reviewed the relationships among dieting, exercise, weight, heart health and mortality. Results showed that working out consistently lowered the risk of heart disease and premature death. The study goes on to say that even for sedentary, obese people the benefits of basic exercise can help lower the risk of premature death by as much as 30 percent, even if their weight stays the same. This improvement generally puts them at lower risk of early death than people who are considered to be of normal weight, but out of shape.

As a world, nation and community, obesity affects our bottom line in more ways than one. Currently, obesity contributes to more than five million deaths around the world every year. According to a recent study in BMJ Global Health, obesity increased in every single country across the world between 1975 and 2016. Current estimates predict that if this rate continues, the direct impact on the economy will be harmful as obesity accounts for excess healthcare costs, low work productivity, mortality rates and more.

As the pandemic changed our lives, it also changed our health. Staying at home and self-isolating became the norm. Instead of daily commutes to work, we walked into the next room to log in online. Grocery store trips were replaced by door delivery, so it’s no secret we are now moving less and sitting more.

A study recently published in the journal Frontiers in Psychiatry tracked the behavior of over 2,300 participants across America. During an eight-week period, researchers measured the effects of suddenly becoming more sedentary and found that sitting for long periods of time is associated with higher symptoms of anxiety and depression.

While public officials encourage people to exercise for the physical health benefits, many experts agree that the mental benefits of exercise are just as important. And while the pandemic has definitely created some challenges in keeping a consistent exercise routine, a few tips might help keep us hustling along.

Any movement is helpful. If you’re crunched for time, try adding more activity throughout the day; take the stairs, park further away from the office or grocery store. Do basic indoor exercises such as jogging in place, jumping jacks, getting up and down quickly from a chair, stretching and cleaning.

Set a gentle reminder to get your heart rate up throughout the day. Use a timer on smartphone that will “ding” every 30 or 60 minutes, encouraging a break from sitting to walk, stand, stretch or whatever gets your heartrate going.

Fans of the show Sex and The City may have seen the Peloton Bike ride that proved fatal for the show’s character Mr. Big. Many experts agree that post-ride scene is fairly misleading and pretty rare. Consistent exercise is one of the best things we can do for our bodies, and that’s especially true for people who have or are at risk for heart disease, according to experts.

Check with a healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise routine, but starting is key. Exercise is a major component of warding off heart conditions. People with issues such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or a family history of heart conditions who have not yet had a cardiac event are prime candidates for exercise.

Moving is imperative, and we can reap all the benefits by making it a part of our daily routine. The more we study exercise and how it affects the human body, the more we learn, but the takeaway stays the same: keep doing it, and start if you haven’t already.

Sources: today.com, parade.com, frontiersin.org, nytimes.com and everydayhealth.com.