Now none of us have any excuse to not exercise.
All my life I hated exercising in the traditional sense — I loved playing soccer in school and I loved chasing after my kids as a mom and I love going on long walks after dinner as a middle aged adult… it’s not that I mind being active… but as far as an exercise program, I never could stick to it.
Yoga classes, pilates classes, step aerobics classes, running, biking, even trying out a personal trainer… I could just never stick with it because I didn’t truly enjoy it.
Seeing people running in my neighborhood every day leaves me with party envy and part awe.
How. Do. They. Do. It.????
I started telling myself I’m just not one of “those” people… you know, the kind who can stick with an exercise routine.
Well after crafting today’s medical literature review, I can’t let myself off the hook quite so easily.
New research published March 8, 2019 in JAMA Network Open shows that introducing physical activity later in life, even in your 60s (and as you’ll see in other studies below, in your 70’s and beyond as well) has a similar benefit of increasing lifespan as you would enjoy if you had been exercising since young adulthood.
Researchers looked at over 300,000 patients and found that exercising for an average of 2 hours a week was enough to protect longevity, significantly dropping their risk of dying from heart attack, stroke, cancer, and all causes of death combined.
But here is the interesting part:
Folks who were inactive but started to exercise in mid-life had every bit the protection to their lifespan as folks who were active from adolescence on.
Participants who reported routinely exercising from adolescence had a 33% decreased risk of dying for any reason
And participants who reported being inactive during young adulthood but increasing activity in midlife enjoyed a similar benefit, at a 34% decreased risk of dying for any reason.
This echoes what researchers found in a study published April 2017 in the Journal Of Geriatric Cardiology, where researchers looked at almost 3,000 adults, with an average age of 71, and evaluated their mortality rates in relationship to how much they exercise.
What they found is that adults who exercised routinely dropped their risk of dying from heart attack or stroke by almost 60%.
But again, the interesting part is how you are never too old to boost your health with exercise.
Because even though the average study participant was in their 70s, if during the study they increased the amount they exercised even more, their risk of dying from a cardiovascular dropped by an additional 25%!
So truly, I mean it, it’s never too late to start exercising routinely, because even if you up your activity level starting when you are in your 70s you are significantly, measurably protecting your health and prolonging your life.
After conducting a meta-analysis of 98 different randomized controlled trials looking at older adults (average age of study participants was 73) researchers found that adults who exercised, even with low impact activities such as yoga and tai chi, enjoyed statistically significant improvements to brain function.
And this included adults who already had mild cognitive impairment and even adults who had outright dementia — all were found to improve their mental processing speed, attention span, executive function and global cognition in functional brain studies.
Why am I saying it’s never too late to start?
Because the key to this study was not to have exercised your entire life or to exercise for long periods of time or to exercise more strenuously or even more frequently… it was only to exercise at all.
In fact, this study showed that you can begin to see these brain boosting results from exercising after only 6 months.
It didn’t take years and years to see benefit (statistically significant benefits began to accrue after only 6 months) and it didn’t take hours and hours of exercising (statistically significant benefits began to accrue after only 2 hours of exercise a week — that’s roughly 17 minutes a day.)
After analysis of the data, the only thing researchers found that made a difference in whether or not the exercise provided brain benefits, was that the total time accumulated exercise time (in a 6 month span) was 52 hours or more. Again, that works out to roughly 17 minutes a day.
So you can start to exercise (for example, at 72 years of age) and reap the cognitive benefits that very same year.
The simple fact is, it’s just never too late.
Lastly, a study published May 2019 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that replacing just 30 minutes of sitting time a day with even light physical activity decreased mortality rates significantly.
And again, here’s the clincher:
The benefit of replacing sedentary time was actually increased even more if you were older than 75 years old.
So light activity decreased mortality rates in adults older than 75 years old more than it decreased mortality rates in younger age groups.
In other words, the older you are, the more that activity of any kind increases your lifespan.
So even at 75? You’ve got no excuses not to put off that activity you’ve always kind of been curious about. It’s never too late to lengthen your lifespan through exercise.
Let me say that again:
It’s NEVER too late to live longer by being active today.
All that mattered wasn’t how many minutes the patients spent each day or each week or even each month exercising… it was just that it accumulated to 52 hours or more in a 6 month period of time.
I think of it now as similar advice to watching the stock market.
Therefore, no matter how long you’ve been sedentary or how old you are, it’s not too late to say that you are going to get moving today so that 6 months from now, your brain is working better and your lifespan is protected and increased.
In the end, I finally found an exercise that really feels right to me.
A Barre 3 studio opened up a few miles from my house and I can’t get enough. I happily go to class 2 and 3 times a week now because exercising in this particular studio feels good to me. So even if you’ve hated all other forms of exercise, keep trying new ones.
Middle age or older age and beyond… it’s never too late to introduce activity in order to increase your lifespan. As this studies show, it’s literally never too late to make a dramatic difference in your own longevity by getting more active.
PS — if you truly have mobility issues or serious medical issues that prevent you from exercising, one alternative to exercising that has been shown to similarly increase lifespan is routine sauna. Hop over to this article I wrote for you explaining more on why sauna is one of the loveliest ways to protect your health for a lifetime.