Nobody likes being nagged constantly by medical authorities about the importance of exercise and how we really have to make ourselves do it.
But if you want to live a healthier, longer life, there’s no getting it around. The research is overwhelming.
Now comes a new study to show us that regular cardiovascular workouts will keep your telomeres long and add nearly a decade to your life.
A Half Hour is The Minimum
The study, carried out by Professor Larry Tucker from Brigham Young University in Utah, looked at data on lifestyle and 62 physical activities of 5,823 adults. The information came from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which is an ongoing research program designed to assess the health and nutritional status of Americans.
Prof. Tucker discovered that those who spent much of their time sitting down had 140 fewer telomere base pairs than those who engaged in regular high physical activity.
Men and women who took part in low levels of activity had 137 less, and even people whose activity levels were described as moderate had 111 fewer.
The difference in telomere lengths translates to a difference of nearly nine years in biological aging between people who engage in the highest and lowest levels of physical activity. The divide between high and moderate levels of exercise was just over seven years.
The high physical activity needed to preserve telomeres equates to 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise five days a week for women and 40 minutes for men.
A Little is Not Enough, Study Author Says
Professor Tucker commented, “We know that regular physical activity helps to reduce mortality and prolong life, and now we know part of that advantage may be due to the preservation of telomeres.
“Just because you are 40 doesn’t mean you’re 40 biologically. We all know people who seem younger that their actual age. The more physically active we are, the less biological aging takes place in our bodies.
“If you want to see a real difference in slowing your biological aging, it appears that a little exercise won’t cut it. You have to work out regularly at high levels.”
Any Physical Activity Will Do
For those who are reluctant or unable to engage in running, swimming, cycling or other cardiovascular workouts at such a high level, there is some good news.
A collaboration of scientists from 14 different countries looked at physical activity levels of 130,843 participants between the ages of 35 and 70. The subjects were drawn from 17 low, middle and high-income countries over a seven-year period.
The results, published in The Lancet in September, showed that – compared to the people who were least active — those who engaged in moderately intense activity for at least 150 minutes per week cut their risk of death by 28% and were also 20% less likely to develop heart disease during those seven years. The optimal amount of activity was one to two hours per day (quite a stretch for most of us).
While these findings were in line with other studies, what the researchers discovered was that any kind of regular physical activity gave these beneficial results.
No need to buy expensive gym memberships, mountain bikes or running shoes. Walking to work, office “walkaround” meetings, household chores, gardening — keeping active in any way will have the same positive effects.
Try to Make It Part of Daily Life
Lead author Scott Lear said, “The people who did the greatest amount of activity and got the greatest benefits were the ones who got their activity outside of the recreational leisure-time type of activity.”
While the study did not measure biological aging, a 28% reduced risk of death is an impressive finding.
Intense exercise is often seen as a chore that folks eventually give up on. But it looks like it’s an option to replace it with activity or movement that’s integrated into our daily lives. That may be the best choice for those who don’t wish to sweat it out for 30 to 40 minutes in a structured workout.