Longevity means different things to different people, but for most, it has its roots in living the best quality of life possible for as long as possible. That means being able to move without limitations and keeping up with the family to live life to its fullest.
It will undoubtedly mean preserving independent living for as long as possible. For most people, that isn't something they think about while they are still in their prime. But being able to live a functionally independent life is fundamental to happiness and fitness for many.
The world's foremost authority on longevity is Dr. Valter Longo, a director of the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles and the Program on Longevity and Cancer at IFOM in Milan.
His research has shown that exercise is the second most important factor in longevity after diet. This is well supported by research. Dr. Longo suggests particular exercise types are incredibly useful, so let's dig into 4 aspects of physical activity everybody should consider for longevity.
Walking an hour a day is Dr. Longo's prescription, but this doesn't have to be in one big session. Instead, it can be useful to break the hour into smaller "chunks", such as a brisk walk to catch the train for 15 minutes. Ideally, the walk should be fast-paced, but this is relative - as long as it feels like you're walking fast for you - that's fast enough.
Dr. Longo's research on walking is supported by many studies, notably one by the Mayo Clinic that suggested brisk walkers were found to have longer life expectancies, regardless of body fat levels.
To increase the amount of walking, consider leaving the car at home and walking whenever possible. Parking further away when you go to the store and walking faster to the places you're headed could be enough to extend your life.
2.5hrs Moderate Aerobic/Cardio
It's important to remember that the type of cardio you do doesn't matter - unless you're training for a particular sport. So if pounding away on the treadmill isn't for you, there's no reason why you couldn't switch it for something you like more.
You may have a fitness tracker that gives you a clear indicator for when you're in the "aerobic zone." If not, you'll know when your workout is in the aerobic zone when you're breathing hard and sweating.
This target could be hit with 30 minutes of exercise a day, Monday through to Friday. Once this feels easy, start to increase the length or intensity gradually.
As for the activities, you might consider indoor exercise classes or stationary bikes when the weather makes it tough to go outside. Or hiking and outdoor jogging when the weather permits. Remember to be safe, particularly when exercising outdoors.
While this could be a traditional gym routine of lifting weights, it doesn't have to be. It could be doing physical work around the house and yard instead of employing someone to do that for you. Bodyweight workouts that can be completed at home (push-ups, squats, lunges, and core work) can be a great way to get started and don't require any equipment at all.
When putting your muscles and joints under a load as you do in resistance training, it strengthens the density of the bones itself. As you age, you lose bone density through osteoporosis, which can make you vulnerable in the event of a trip or fall. The research well supports strength training for health and vitality.
Dr. Longo stresses that although these factors will help someone age well, they are underpinned by a healthy diet. The preparation for aging well should begin as young as possible.
Massage and stretching is a fundamental part of any healthy recovery program. Reducing stress, improving circulation, and supporting quality sleep gives the appearance of younger, more radiant skin. With benefits to your immune system and preventative qualities such as the reduced risk of muscle strain, it's worth considering adding an intentional recovery element into your exercise routine.
Living a long and healthy life, being as independent as possible, is linked to three main pillars. First, a healthy, balanced diet that needs to be supported by two facets of exercise; cardiovascular health and strength training. Cardiovascular health should be a component of every day, aiming for around 30 minutes a day. Strength training is essential for independence as we age.