Here’s the New Science-Backed Workout That’s Extending Elderly Lives

When you're exercising for your lifespan, less could be more.

Here’s the New Science-Backed Workout That’s Extending Elderly Lives
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You’ve probably already heard that, despite the stereotype, you don’t actually need to break a sweat in order to get a great workout. But it looks like a sweaty workout is particularly unnecessary to people exercising over a certain age.

A new study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine has found that longer, less strenuous workouts are more effective in prolonging longevity than high-intensity cardio. For the study, researchers tracked 1,200 British men without heart disease in their early 70s and late 80s. The volunteers were asked to put on an accelerometer for seven days in order to track their physical activity, after which their health was monitored for five years.

The results found that, as one would expect, those who exercised reduced their chances of dying by 40% in comparison to those who led a relatively sedentary existence. What was perhaps more surprising, however, was that doing sporadic bursts of light physical activity—walking the dog, mowing the lawn, etc.—was basically as beneficial to longevity as a sweaty session at the gym. It’s worth noting as well that, for those over the age of 70, particularly those who may suffer from osteoporosis, light, low-impact activity like hiking or jogging is a lot safer than weight training or doing sprints in spin class.

The researchers were quick to mention that, because the study was observational and not a clinical trial, the direct cause of the results cannot be confirmed (for example, the volunteers who lived longer could have eaten more fish, gotten more sleep, or had some of the personality traits associated with longer living). However, lead author Barbara Jefferis, an epidemiologist at University College London, told AFP that the study does nonetheless have implications, especially since “U.S. physical activity guidelines don’t mention any benefits of light activity.”

So if you’re putting off taking a long walk because you figure it won’t have as much of an effect as pumping iron, think again! As Jefferis said, “the results suggest that all activities—no matter how modest—are beneficial.” And for more on exercise, don’t miss this roundup of The Best Luxury Fitness Vacations.

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