Worried you’re not getting enough exercise throughout your day? If you don’t think you’re moving around enough then this will be good news for you: every step you take counts to a longer life. A new study has found that it’s how much walking (or movement) you do during the day matters a lot towards longevity. The kind of physical activity you’re doing doesn’t matter as much as the fact that you’re doing something – even if it’s just taking the stairs instead of the escalator.
“Everything counts,” said William Kraus, a cardiologist at North Carolina’s Duke University School of Medicine and senior author of a new study published last week in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
The epidemiological study looked at the relative benefits of “bouted” versus sporadic moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) on the mortality of 4,840 people who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2003-06.
“Does it matter whether that total physical activity was in bouts or not bouts?” Kraus said. “And we found out it didn’t matter whether it was in bouts or not bouts. It’s the total physical activity that matters.”
Everybody already knows that exercising is good for your health, this isn’t new. What is new is associating the amount of exercise to telomere length. Telomeres are plentiful in young humans and over one’s lifespan the telomeres start to disappear, which has led researchers to think that more is better for staying biologically young. This most recent study looked at adults between 20 and 84 and concluded that, of the 6,000 people studied, that telomeres were more prevalent in people who exercised 30 to 40 minutes five days a week. This high level of exercise can increase your lifespan by about nine years.
Exercise science professor Larry Tucker found adults with high physical activity levels have telomeres with a biological aging advantage of nine years over those who are sedentary, and a seven-year advantage compared to those who are moderately active. To be highly active, women had to engage in 30 minutes of jogging per day (40 minutes for men), five days a week.
“If you want to see a real difference in slowing your biological aging, it appears that a little exercise won’t cut it,” Tucker said. “You have to work out regularly at high levels.”
Tucker analyzed data from 5,823 adults who participated in the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, one of the few indexes that includes telomere length values for study subjects. The index also includes data for 62 activities participants might have engaged in over a 30-day window, which Tucker analyzed to calculate levels of physical activity.