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I’ll admit it. I’m not a big fan of sweating and panting. Heavy-duty exercise just isn’t something I’ve ever engaged in.
But I am 65, and a bit heavier than I’d like. So what’s a gal to do if she wants to live a long, healthy life?
Well, research is on my side.
Both very recently and over the past five years or so, studies have shown that I do NOT need to break a sweat in order to reap the health benefits of physical activity.
If you’re like me, I have some good news.
It may turn out that when it comes to exercise, less may actually be more.
60 minutes per week lengthens life
Four researchers from the Department of Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise at Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan looked at the relationship between muscle strengthening exercise and mortality.
They started by analyzing 16 previous studies, covering up to 25 years of research and sample sizes up to nearly 480,000 people.
Their findings showed that muscle-strengthening activities were associated with a 10 to 20 percent lower risk of death from all causes. The risks of cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes and cancer were particularly affected.
But how much muscle-strengthening activity are we talking about? In terms of significantly reducing the risk of death, 60 minutes a week seems to be the cutoff point.
The researchers found that “the influence of a higher volume of muscle-strengthening activities on all-cause mortality, CVD, and total cancer is unclear.”
In other words, doing muscle-strengthening exercises for more than 60 minutes per week didn’t reduce mortality rates any further.
“Weekend warriors” can live longer, too
Even if you do prefer a more active exercise regimen, the good news is that you don’t have to go to extremes for it to add years to your life.
A study published in 2017 proved that one to two sessions of moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity per week is enough to reap disease-fighting benefits that can add years to your life.
What kind of activity are we talking about? A game of pick-up basketball, a long walk with a friend, and a round of bowling all qualify.
Even better, the study showed that even if you’ve been inactive up until now, you can still extend your lifespan by 30 percent if you manage to get a little bit of active movement through exercise or activities like walking, biking, and dancing. Even tai chi, a seemingly low-exertion activity, can add years to your life if done regularly.
More ways to live longer without “exercise”
To become more active, start where you are, and start slowly. There’s no need to from zero to a thousand here!
When people think of muscle-strengthening activities, squats, pushups and lifting weights come to mind. But did you know gardening which includes digging and shoveling also counts?
But that’s not all. Here are more muscle-strengthening activities to help you get started:
- Take a walk after dinner. Bring friends along if you can—because people who walk together have lower blood pressure, resting heart rate and total cholesterol.
- Try a yoga class. It lowers stress hormones and trains the body to handle stress more healthfully.
- Find something you love to do. If you hate going to the gym, don’t do it! In fact, dancing is the best exercise if you’re past menopause. Doing something you love with others who love it, too, can provide further motivation.
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Muscle-strengthening activities are associated with lower risk and mortality in major non-communicable diseases: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies — British Journal of Sports Medicine