Friday, January 25, 2008

Exercise and Longevity

Longevity is the principal goal of the active survivalist. There is a link between regular exercise and longevity along the lines of "if you don't use it you lose it". Muscular strength, coordination, balance and flexibility all decline with age until the unavoidable (so it seems) terminal conclusion. While this may be inevitable the process can be delayed. A new study confirms this:

The men ranged in age from 47 to 71 and had been referred to a VA medical facility for a clinically prescribed treadmill exercise test sometime between 1983 and 2006. All participants were asked to run until fatigued, at which point the researchers recorded the total amount of energy expended and oxygen consumed.

The numbers were then crunched into "metabolic equivalents," or METS. In turn, the researchers graded the fitness of each man according to his MET score, ranging from "low-fit" (below 5 METS) to "very-high fit" (above 10 METS).

By tracking fatalities through June 2007, Kokkinos and his colleagues found that for both black and white men it was their fitness level, rather than their age, blood pressure or body-mass index, that was most strongly linked to their future risk for death.

Every extra point in MET conferred a 14 percent reduction in the risk for death among black men, and a 12 percent reduction among whites. Among all participants, those categorized as "moderately fit" (5 to 7 METS) had about a 20 percent lower risk for death than "low-fit" men. "High-fit" men (7 to 10 METS) had a 50 percent lower risk, while the "very high fit" (10 METS or higher) cut their odds of an early death by 70 percent.

"The point is, it takes relatively little exercise to achieve the benefit we found," noted Kokkinos. "Approximately two to three hours per week of brisk walking per week. That's just 120 to 200 minutes per week. And this can be split up throughout the week, and throughout the day. So it's doable in the real world."

Link to the above: A little Regular Exercise Extends Men's Lives

The really interesting thing about this study which confirms the principle of active survivalism is that those who exercised the most survived the longest. Body fat wasn't a major factor although I suspect those that exercised the most had the lowest body fat.

One thing I have noticed, especially among people who are a generation older than me, is that they do almost no exercise. My parents generation invariably did little or no focussed exercise. That is exercise for exercise sake focussing on developing heart health, muscle strength and endurance and lung capacity. Some of them claimed they got all the exercise they needed doing the gardening or going on an occasional walk. This is not enough. Exercise should focus on developing the body and should be a little bit tough if not extremely taxing. Pain is necessary and desired. Aching joints and muscles are to be expected. The active survivalist will suffer a little more due to the nature of an aging body and recovery times will probably be longer than that of a young persons. This is to be expected and battled against.

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