Some people fear their encroaching Golden Years will be an onslaught of nagging aches, pains, and chronic ills, from arthritic knees to osteoporosis and high blood pressure to forgetfulness. It doesn’t have to be. A wealth of evidence has shown that regular exercise can delay and even prevent many age-related ailments and improve longevity. And the best new: it is never too late to start. And not only does exercise improve your physical condition, it will also improve your mental and emotional outlook.
The National Cancer Institute looked at the exercise habits of around 650,000 adults, most over 40, and found that those who completed 2.5 hours of moderate exercise a week—or an hour and fifteen minutes of vigorous exercise—increased their life expectancy by more than four years. Even just 10 to 15 minutes daily of brisk walking or comparable exercise increased longevity by at least a year. The benefits are even better for those who are obese or recovering from cancer or heart disease. And this is true whether you’re 50, 65, or older.
How exercise physically improves our bodies is pretty straightforward. It improves circulation, strengthens muscles strong, and keeps joints flexible. Exercise also helps rejuvenate the lining of our blood vessels, protecting against stroke and heart attack. That half hour walk even gives our DNA a boost. One 20-minute workout acts like a mini-tune-up appears to help tune-up DNA, so that our metabolism works more efficiently. And just 45 minutes of exercise a week helps keep the brain healthy and sharp.
But often overlooked is the benefit of exercise on our psyche. Forgot you are what you eat; the new mantra is you’re as old as you think. Having a positive attitude not only improves your general quality of life and can directly impact your longevity. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic report that optimistic people decreased their risk of early death by 50 percent compared to those of the more cranky persuasion.
And research shows people who exercise regularly have the best attitudes and are the most optimistic. So regardless of your age, start incorporating some kind of exercise routine into your daily or weekly schedule. And be adventurous. Yes, walking, jogging, and step class are good but variation will make exercise an activity to look forward to rather than a chore to get over with. Here are some activities that can be the foundation for longevity and good health:
1. Yoga is more than just a little stretching. It reduces joint stiffness and improves flexibility, balance, muscle strength, and tone. It also has a spiritual component that relieves stress and improves mood.
2. Heavy weight lifting isn’t just for body builders. (A heavy weight is defined as enough weight so you can’t do more than 12 repetitions.) Everyone, especially women, can benefit from pumping a little iron. It increases flexibility, boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure, and improves posture. As an added benefit it helps prevent diabetes, breast cancer, and depression. And who doesn’t want toned upper arms?
3. Balance exercises aren’t as easy as you might think because they work your core. So what if you look like a stork; it’s better than a broken hip down the road from losing your balance and falling.
4. Meditation is exercise for the soul, reducing stress, anxiety, and depression and improving outlook.
5. Having sex twice a week can extend longevity by several years say researchers and their happy study participants. And in addition to all the well-known cardio and emotional benefits, it also lowers cholesterol levels.