Start by exercising. Physical activity is one of the most important components of longevity. We all know that exercising is good for health. What we are not so clear about is exactly how much physical activity is required to prolong our life and the quality of it.
“Anything is better than nothing”
A common mistake made by those who do not yet have an active life but who want to improve their fitness and health is that they think that to see benefits they have to train for hours or do it at high intensities. Standards that more than motivate them to demotivate them. The truth is that moving frequently (we’re not even talking about exercising, just constantly moving), makes a big difference compared to a sedentary life.
People who lead an active life tend to live longer, there are scientific studies that prove this. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, for its acronym in English), of the United States, show that lack of activity is related to mortality.
This research collected data from more than 60,000 people and found that 9.9% of deaths in people between the ages of 40 and 69 were related to inadequate levels of physical activity.
What is the appropriate level?
For the purposes of this study, the recommendation of approximately 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week was considered.
How long should you train per week to live longer?
It is clear that performing a physical activity for less than 150 minutes (2.5 hours) per week increases the risk of mortality. But, what is the most appropriate period to reduce the risk to the maximum? That is what an investigation published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings sought to answer.
Based on the Copenhagen City Heart Study, a Danish study, the researchers compared more than 8,000 people and classified them according to their level of physical activity. This is defined as recreational sports activities. The data was obtained to cover a period of 25.6 years of follow-up.
The reference group did between 2.6 and 4.5 hours of exercise per week.As the researchers explain, those subjects who did 0 to 2.5 hours had a higher risk of all-cause mortality.
But here’s the really interesting thing: also those who added more than 10 hours had a higher risk than the reference group. In other words, the optimal range is between 2.6 and 4.5 hours of weekly sports activity.
Do daily steps count as physical activity?
Another common way to quantify activity is by steps. That is why more and more devices such as cell phones and smartwatches incorporate the pedometer function and alert the user when they have added a specific number of steps in the day.
The advantage of using the number of steps as a measure of physical activity is that it is accessible to most people. Building on this, a couple of recent studies have tried to figure out what number or range of steps correlates most strongly with longevity. You don’t have to run (although if you can, go for it!) to live longer, just keep moving constantly.
One of the studies was published in Jama Network Opening in early September 2021. It found that adults who took at least 7,000 steps per day had a 50 to 70% lower risk of mortality than those who did not add this number of steps.
Also interesting is that taking more than 10,000 steps is not associated with greater risk reduction. Put another way: If you specifically want more longevity, there’s no point in walking more than 10,000 steps. It is one of the cases in which more is not necessarily better.
How much exercise is too much (talking about longevity)?
As could be seen in both studies, there is a point from which increases the volume of physical activity does not produce more benefits (specifically in terms of reducing the risk of mortality). When talking about training time per week, this upper limit is 10 hours. When it comes to steps per day, the figure to take into account is 10,000.
Does that mean that doing more activity than that is harmful? Absolutely not. If you’re training for a marathon and clocking in more than 10 hours a week, or if you’re just into gym fever, you’ll see a host of added benefits. However, longevity will not continue to climb.
There are many powerful reasons why you should exercise. One of them is the relationship between physical activity and longevity.Speaking specifically of this, if you want to maximize that benefit and increase your chances of living longer, science has found that you should aim to exercise between 2.6 and 4.5 hours per week. Another way to look at it is that you should be taking 7,000 to 10,000 steps each day.