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The average lifespan of an American woman is about six to eight years longer than the lifespan of her male counterpart.
In fact, all over the world, women tend to live longer than men.
This difference in longevity has been attributed to various factors. For example, thanks to female hormones, women tend to carry body fat subcutaneously, or under the skin, while men tend to have more visceral fat (fat surrounding their organs).
So, while most American men can expect to live to 76, the women are seeing an average of 81 years.
But behavior and lifestyle choices can increase the odds that you will live a long and healthy life.
And, according to a recent study, there’s one behavior a woman can engage in that will grant her more years, and more health to enjoy them.
It shouldn’t come as a big surprise to you.
The more you can exercise, the longer you’ll live
The research was presented in December 2019 at EuroEcho 2019, a scientific congress of the European Society of Cardiology.
The study examined the exercise capacity — how long and how hard they could work out — of almost 5000 women. It also looked at how well or how poorly their heart functioned during vigorous exercise.
Good exercise capacity and healthy heart function are the two things that will grant a woman a longer healthspan. Your healthspan is more than just how many years you live. It’s the amount of time you get to live a healthy, disease-free, productive life.
Based on his results, study author Dr. Jesus Peteiro of University Hospital A Coruna in Spain, advises women: “Exercise as much as you can. Fitness protects against death from any cause.”
Based on his findings, Dr. Peteiro says that normal heart function during exercise will make a woman less likely to have a heart attack.
But if her exercise capacity is poor, if she can’t walk fast up four flights of steps, or very fast up three flights, she is still at higher risk of death from other causes, including cancer.
“The best situation is to have normal heart performance during exercise and good exercise capacity.”
In other words, a strong heart combined with the ability to sustain vigorous exercise could increase a woman’s longevity well beyond what biology already offers her.
But what if you hate to work out?
Many women like nothing better than to exercise until they break a sweat and are breathless.
But just as many of us (myself included) have trouble getting off the couch, starting a regular, moderate exercise routine, and sticking to it, let alone doing vigorous exercise on a regular basis.
If you’re part of the latter group, don’t worry. According to Bob Karch, an exercise researcher at American University, as little as 72 minutes a week — just over an hour — can improve your fitness level.
So, if you just can’t seem to get into the exercise thing, here are few tips that can help you “exercise” vigorously without even knowing you’re doing it.
- Find something you love to do. If you hate going to the gym… don’t do it! Dancing, swimming, and yoga can be done on your own or in a class or group. Doing something you love with others who love it, too, can provide further motivation.
- Do it before you realize you’re doing it. Wake up 30 minutes earlier and work out to a YouTube video. Or go to an early morning yoga class. When you’re done, you’ll still have the whole day ahead of you, knowing you’ve already put in your exercise time.
- Make it easy. Not the workout itself, but the getting there and doing it. If you’re exercising at home, set up your video the night before. Plan on a healthy breakfast afterward. Make it less of a chore and more something you do for yourself.
The bottom line: find an activity you’ll actually do, find others to do it with, if that makes sense, and make it fit into your life rather than be an “add-on.”
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- Women, exercise, and longevity — EurekAlert
- Why do women live longer than men? — Our World in Data
- Why women live longer than men: Sex differences in longevity — Gender Medicine
- 5 easy cardio exercises to get your heart pumping — Polar Blog
- How Revving Up Your Heart Rate, Even A Bit, Pays Off — NPR