Smiling woman using weights in a fitness class

Exercise and longevity

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Physical activity has long been connected to a longer life span. Now research has highlighted how even small amounts of movement can make a big difference.

The connection between exercise and longevity

Physical inactivity is associated with many chronic diseases and a shorter life span. There is also mounting evidence to suggest that high levels of time spent being sedentary (or sitting) has a number of negative consequences to your health.

Modern living has evolved to the point where a large portion of society hold desk jobs where they sit for 6 or more hours on most days.

On the other hand, movement and exercise have not only the potential to prevent illness, but also promote vibrant health and wellness.

Physical activity helps the body function more efficiently, tuning up and strengthening parts of your body that may be susceptible to decline and disease, such as the muscles, blood vessels and bones.

We also need to look at research to better understand the most effective forms of exercise to help achieve these positive outcomes.

What the science says about exercise and longevity

study published in the British Medical Journal attempted to take the guess work out of measuring the life extending benefits of exercise.

The researchers reviewed a number of studies, but excluded research that involved self reporting of exercise, where it’s thought people tend to over-estimate their physical activity, and underestimate their sedentary activity.

To eliminate bias, they instead relied on studies that used technology (ie, accelerometry) to explore the associations between physical activity or sedentary time and mortality.

What they found was that higher levels of physical activity at any intensity, and less time spent being sedentary, can significantly increase your chances of living a longer life. It seems that any activity, no matter how modest, can increase your longevity.

Move more to live more

The clear message from this research is that all activity can be beneficial, and that exercise doesn’t have to be formal or planned to be effective.

Here’s 4 simple tips on how to build more movement into your day

1. Accumulate activity

You don't have to do all your exercise at once for it to be beneficial. Beginners, or people who struggle to find big chunks of time may find it easier to break exercise into smaller bouts performed at different times throughout the day.

2. Take regular standing breaks

Extended periods of sitting are thought to be damaging to your health, and certainly increase the chances of weight gain. Any time you've sat in a chair for 60 minutes, spend a few minutes standing, stretching and walking around.

3. Find an active hobby

Look for an interest that keeps you moving, such as gardening, dancing, or bush walking. You can also try to combine family time with fun activities such as swimming at the beach, bike riding, canoeing, or sporting games such as soccer or Frisbee.

4. Use your weekends

If don’t get much time to exercise during the week, use the weekend to make up for it. This could involve playing sport, training for or competing in an organised event such as a fun run, or finally making use of that gym membership.

Exercise isn’t just for fitness freaks. Start moving for a healthier you with our simple 4 step action plan to exercising.