Longevity experts are clear that exercise is a key part of living a healthy, long life, but many don’t say much beyond, “Exercise–do a lot of it.” Government guidelines suggest getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week1. However, it is hard to find the basis for these recommendations from studies. In fact, similar to nuts, it seems that for moderate exercise, the amount of exercise necessary to capture the longevity benefits is not high, and there isn’t additional benefit to doing more than a low amount. At high amounts of exercise, the benefits disappear, and you may be worse off than if you didn’t exercise at all.
Part of the challenge of determining the benefits of exercise is the many different levels of exertion. Even within one sport, such as soccer, the effort levels vary significantly when playing an all-field position as opposed to the goalie. For moderate intensity continuous training (MICT), the classic exercise is jogging or running. Correlational studies of people who jog or run show that the benefits are heavily front-loaded–jogging at least once a week for under half an hour seems to capture all of the longevity extending benefits of MICT2. Longer jogs don’t affect all-cause mortality either way until strenuous levels, such as running over 7 mph (12 kph) for over 4 total hours a week or more than 2.5 hours per week in more than three separate runs. At that point, all-cause mortality nearly doubles, as it appears that the additional wear and tear on the body more than offset the health benefit3.
There can be other benefits from running, but for optimal longevity, run at least once a week for about half an hour.
A weekly light jog isn’t everything, though. In the next posts, we’ll talk about high intensity interval training and resistance training!