Want To Live Longer? Doing This Amount of Exercise Will Probably Prolong Your Life, But More Doesn’t Seem to Help.

4 Jun

The idea that exercise can help you live longer isn’t a new one. Experts have touted the benefits of exercise for decades. What is new is that researchers may have found the optimal amount of exercise needed to extend your longevity…

In a study published April 6, 2015 in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers analyzed information from more than 660,000 people ages 21 to 98 in the United States and Sweden who answered questions about how much time they spent doing physical activity, including walking, running, swimming, and bicycling.

The most interesting findings were that doing just a little exercise showed quite a bit of benefit and doing a lot more exercise provided only marginal returns. People who exercised a little, but not enough to meet current physical activity recommendations (150 minutes of moderate activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week), were still 20 percent less likely to die during the 14-year study than those who did not perform any physical activity.

People who engaged in the recommended level of physical activity saw even more benefit. According to the data, they were 31 percent less likely to die during the study than those who did not engage in any amount of physical activity. The maximum benefit was seen by people engaging in three-to-five times the recommended levels.  They were 39% less likely to die over the study period than people who did not exercise.

Here is something interesting:  Many believe if some exercise is good, then more is better.  But there appears to be a ceiling on the amount of exercise that has a beneficial effect on your health.

According to the study, exercising more than three-to-five times the recommended levels did not show any significant additional health benefits. (In fact, previous research indicates that excessive exercise can even be harmful to the heart.) The authors of the study write, “In regard to mortality, healthcare professionals should encourage inactive adults to perform leisure time physical activity and do not need to discourage adults who already participate in high-activity levels.”

Here’s the Biggest Take-Home Message from This Study:

While many people shy away from exercise because they do not feel like they have enough time to exercise enough, this study shows that the people most likely to benefit from increasing the amount of exercise they do are those who do not currently exercise at all.  In other words, if you are not doing any exercise, you can see quite a big potential benefit from just doing a little. You do not have to go crazy and start running marathons.  You just have to get moving and do something.

And the best part is: if you do a little exercise, then you will start to feel better and be able to do more.  Who knows, soon you may find yourself exercising the recommended levels and then one day you’ll look at your journal and realize you are actually exercising the maximum beneficial amount, as uncovered during this study. But reaching the maximum level is not the important thing, and if you are not doing any exercise right now, then you should not even think about that much physical activity.

Probably the biggest reason for failure is setting goals too high.  (I know goal-setting experts often say to set high goals and REACH FOR THE SKY!) If that is working for you, awesome.  But if you are like most people and do not reach a majority of the goals you set, let’s try something a little different.

Let’s set a very small goal, one that you can reach relatively easily and in a short time.  When you do, you will not only feel great, you will gain a little momentum. Once that first little goal is reached, set another small goal and so on… For many people, this is the best way to actually reach their big goals.

So, if you are not exercising now, then make a small goal.  Write down some small thing you are going to do TODAY just to get started. Make it easy.  Make it quick.  Then, just do it.  Tomorrow write down another one.  One of the best techniques is to write down your exercise goal the night before so when you wake up you know exactly what you are going to do that day. But let’s make this very clear:  make your goal very easy so you can get the ball rolling.  Remember, you are going to get quite a bit of benefit from just a small amount of exercise.

While We Are on the Topic of Exercise, Here’s Something You Should Think About:

Do you know how much television you watch every day?  According to recent research, the average American watches five hours per day!  And get this, the number increases with age.  By 65, the average American watches an average of seven hours of television per day. That kind of blows the whole, “I don’t have enough time to exercise” excuse right out of the water, doesn’t it?  But here is something else you should know: a study published in Diabetologia (the Journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes) found that each hour spent watching TV daily increases an individual’s risk of developing diabetes by 3.4%.

It’s no wonder why the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported in 2014 that 29.1 million Americans, or 9.3% of the population of the United States, have diabetes.  What’s incredible is 8.9 million of that 29.1 million (27.8%) are undiagnosed.  That means almost 9 million people are pretty much ticking time bombs for all kinds of serious health problems and do not even know it. The good news is that many type 2 diabetics can benefit from diet and exercise.  (There is that “exercise” thing again!)

Advice for this month:  Take 20 minutes out of the five-to-seven hours you may spend watching  television and instead do a little exercise and watch what happens!

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