Longevity Boosters: Exercise and Friends

 According to a study of approximately 123,000 men and women, you can potentially extend your lifespan by an additional 12 to 14 years if you:

  • Exercise regularly
  • Stay Social
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Drink only in moderation
  • Don’t smoke
  • Maintain a healthy weight

As a fitness expert, I’m going to focus on the first two variables – exercise and staying social.

I’m sure you’re aware that staying physically active lowers your risk for disease, but did you know that it might also help keep your cells biologically younger?  Wow!

Researchers at Brigham Young University studied nearly 6,000 adults between the ages of 20 and 84 and found that subjects who regularly did 30 to 40 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise five days a week had significantly longer telomers than those who worked out less or remained sedentary.

“What on earth is a telomer,” you ask?

At the outer tips of each chromosome in every cell of your body lie the protein caps called telomeres, which protect your DNA from damage. Stress, aging, and disease can cause your telomeres to shorten in length — but the good news is that, by working out, you can not only maintain your telomeres’ vibrancy but even rebuild (aka lengthen) them after being worn down.  The longer your telomers are, the better.

A 2018 Mayo Clinic study suggests that you’ll add even more years to your life if you play a team sport or work out with friends. The more social the activity, the better the result: Participants who played tennis added 9.7 years to their life span and soccer players added 4.7 years, while cyclist, joggers and gym goers saw an increase of 3.7, 3.2, and 1.5 years respectively.  Like so many other Baby Boomers, I recently started playing Pickleball and it really is fun, and who knows how many happy years I might be adding to my life!

Research from the 2018 Mayo Clinic study on social isolation, on the other hand, has shown that it can shorten your life by an astounding 15 years, an impact similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

I encourage you to keep moving – with friends-  if possible!

The Week

December 11, 2020

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