To Double the Odds of Seeing 85: Get a Move On
When It Comes to Longevity, Regular Exercise May Be the Most Potent Weapon Against DiseaseBy RON WINSLOW
The leading edge of the baby boom generation turns 65 next year, which means a new milestone looms on the horizon: age 85.
So what do boomers need to do not just to survive to 85, but to live healthy lives into old age and not break the bank at the federal Medicare program?
The most important strategy, according to the latest research to look at the question, is to be physically active in middle age. "If you are fit in mid-life, you double your chance of surviving to 85," says Jarett Berry, a cardiologist at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.
Put another way: If you're not fit in your 50s, your projected life span "is eight years shorter than if you are fit," Dr. Berry says.
Dr. Berry's findings, presented last week in San Francisco at the American Heart Association's annual epidemiology and prevention conference, are based on an analysis of 1,765 men and women who had physical examinations performed during the 1970s and 1980s at the Cooper Institute, the Dallas-based birthplace of the aerobics movement. They are a reminder that despite an array of effective drugs and other medical advances, the front line for most of us in the battle to prevent heart disease and survive into old age lies in adopting healthy living habits.
The report also underscores the importance of physical activity in maintaining overall health: Fitness even trumped smoking cessation in the magnitude of benefit among participants in the study—though not by much. The combination of being physically fit, not smoking and having low blood pressure was a powerful predictor of longevity.
"It's one more piece of data that says we all need to be moving in America," says Emelia Benjamin, professor of medicine and epidemiology at Boston University School of Medicine, who wasn't involved with the study. "It's pretty clear that Americans want to take a pill, but we're all going to be bankrupt unless people start taking on these lifestyle changes."
Certainly it's well established that getting your heart rate up and breaking a sweat on a regular basis is good for your health. But two previous studies didn't find an association between exercise and longevity and a third turned up a relatively most link.
Establishing a regular workout regimen remains elusive for many of us. "On average, we tend to participate in less physical activity and be less fit each year after about age 30," says Donald M. Lloyd-Jones, a cardiologist at Northwestern University in Chicago and senior investigator on the longevity study.
National guidelines recommended Americans get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week or 20 minutes of intense physical activity three times a week to maintain fitness. Twice-weekly weight-training sessions to strengthen muscles are also advised. National health survey data indicate about half of Americans report meeting those guidelines, but Dr. Lloyd-Jones and other experts believe it is far less than that.Full Article: