No matter who you are or where you come from, exercise is one of the best things that you can do for your long-term health and quality of life. With so many different exercise options available today, it’s hard to know exactly what to focus on to get the most benefit from your efforts.
From cycling to yoga class, there are plenty of ways to stay active and prioritize your fitness at any age. In this article we’ll discuss some of the most important types of exercises, how they contribute to your longevity, and how you can incorporate them into your routine to promote an active lifestyle.
What is Longevity?
In its most basic form, longevity is a measure of the years in your life. For some people, the goal of optimizing longevity is to live as long of a life as possible. Other people aren’t satisfied with this goal, and are constantly pushing to get as many years in their life as possible while also maximizing the life in their years.
After roughly age 30, our bodies naturally decline in many areas of physical function and performance such as strength, mobility, and cardiovascular health. While there’s not much we can do to completely stop these changes, there are many things we can do to slow them down. This is where modern longevity science comes in.
With the help of longevity science, the benefits of regular exercise for feeling better and living longer have never been more clear. By optimizing longevity through exercise, you can get the benefits of a longer life (more years) while also living a great quality of life (more life).
How are Longevity and Exercise Related?
The impact of regular exercise on your physical health, your sense of vitality, and the quality of life you can enjoy is too big to ignore. This is especially true for younger people who want to maintain their physical health and performance as long as possible.
In the most basic terms, exercise puts stress on the different systems of your body such as your muscles, bones, joints, heart and lungs, and even your brain. Because your body is built to adapt to stress, regular exercise helps to keep all of these systems functioning optimally and ultimately slows their natural decline that happens with age.
When it comes to living the life you enjoy most, optimizing your longevity can look like keeping up with your favorite sports, preventing common medical conditions or daily aches and pains, and feeling younger than your peers who don’t exercise regularly.
Exercise Options for Longevity
While there are many different ways to exercise and promote longevity, we’re going to focus on three of the most essential types for promoting long-term health and vitality:
Endurance (Aerobic) Exercise
Endurance or aerobic exercise is a type of exercise that stresses your heart and lungs with sustained effort. Some common examples of endurance exercise include running, cycling, and swimming.
By stressing your heart and lungs, endurance exercise contributes to longevity through improving the efficiency of your heart, improving how your body uses oxygen, and promoting circulation throughout your body.
Strength Training Exercise
Strength training exercise is a type of exercise that stresses your muscles, bones, and joints with short bouts of effort. Some common ways to perform strength training include using dumbbells, cables, resistance bands, and even your body weight.
By stressing your muscles, bones, and joints, strength training exercise contributes to longevity by (of course) increasing muscle strength, maintaining bone density, and promoting joint health.
Mobility Exercise (with Stability)
Similar to strength training exercise, mobility exercise stresses your muscles and joints in short bouts. However, because of the way mobility exercises are performed, they actually promote flexibility of your muscles and increased range of motion at your joints. Some common examples of mobility exercise are stretching and yoga.
Stability training is a type of exercise that helps improve your control over the movement of your joints. It’s important to pair mobility exercise with stability exercise to get the benefits of improved joint mobility while also promoting movement coordination to prevent injury.
Mobility and stability exercises contribute to longevity by improving joint health, which is essential for performing other types of exercise consistently and enjoying your favorite activities confidently at any age.
Using Exercise to Promote Longevity and Optimize Quality of Life
Now that we’ve covered some of the most important forms of exercise for staying strong and independent over the long term, let’s see what a typical exercise plan could look like.
For some people, training strength, endurance, mobility and stability in the same workout makes the most sense. This means that instead of having different days of the week for different exercise types, you can consistently train all exercise types on the same day.
Here’s an example of what your workout could look like:
- Aerobic exercise (25 minutes)
- Treadmill jogging, cycling, swimming, etc.
- Strength training (25 minutes)
- Dumbbells, cables, body weight exercises
- Mobility + Stability (10 minutes)
- Stretching, joint mobilization, balance
For others, focusing on different exercise types throughout the week will make more sense. If this sounds more like you, here’s an example of what your week could look like:
- Upper body strength workout (45 minutes)
- Lower body strength workout (45 minutes)
- Full body strength workout (45 minutes)
In reality, your schedule will be a combination of these that evolves over time, and that’s okay. What matters most is that you have a plan, you stick to it, and you’re willing to change your plan to best meet your needs.
By consistently working on essential exercise week after week, you can begin to reap the benefits of your hard work pretty quickly. Some common examples include having more energy during your day, avoiding common aches and pains, and improving important health markers like blood pressure and blood sugar.
Exercise doesn’t always have to feel like work, and there are plenty of ways to weave fun activities into your lifestyle that feel less like exercise and more like recreation. A few things you can try are going on a long hike, signing up for a team sport league, and attending group fitness classes. When it comes to exercise, if you enjoy it, you’re more likely to be consistent with it.
Even though exercise is a major component of longevity, it’s not the only part. Once you’re feeling confident about your exercise habits, here are a few other areas to focus on:
- Diet – Eating foods that meet your unique dietary needs and staying hydrated.
- Sleep – Focusing on getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep most nights.
- Stress – Identifying and managing your stress triggers for a healthier stress response.
Tips for Success
Whether it’s work, a busy schedule, kids, or health conditions, there are so many factors that can make regular exercise a major challenge. Here are a few areas to focus on to help with maintaining a successful exercise routine.
Thoughts create our actions, and actions create our habits. Habits are simply things we do without needing to think about them so much. They are automatic.
One amazing workout doesn’t get results. In fact, people who focus on intensity (working out really hard) instead of consistency (working out really often) simply don’t get the results they expect for health and longevity. By building habits around your exercise, you can set yourself up for better success than most other people who never build those habits.
Even if you’re not an expert at exercise, you can develop healthy habits by going through the motions as consistently as possible. The more often you get dressed for exercise, show up to your exercise destination without distraction, and perform your planned exercise, the more likely you are to see long-term success.
That can seem like a lot at first, which brings us to the next important point.
Focus on Small Goals
Every big goal is made up of several small goals, and focusing on small goals can help you build the consistency and confidence you need to overcome even the biggest challenges. One way to do this is by starting with the smallest viable goal.
For example, if your New Year’s resolution is to lose 30 pounds, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But if you put a time estimate on your goal (let’s say 10 months) and then divide it into smaller goals (3 pounds per month) suddenly it seems a lot more clear what the next step toward your goal looks like.
Once you have your smaller goals, see how much you can break them down from there. If you know you want to lose 3 pounds per month, set a goal to exercise 5 days per week, then set a smaller goal to exercise for 30 minutes tomorrow. Now you’re getting into goals that are actually just habits, and habits can get you results!
How Can Working with an Expert at DPT Help Me Optimize My Longevity For The Long Term?
Optimizing longevity through exercise doesn’t have to be intimidating, and with the help of experts, it’s easier than ever. At The Doctors of Physical Therapy, we offer performance training plans to help you reach your health and performance goals confidently. Here are a few highlights:
- Coaching and support from experts in movement, exercise, and longevity.
- Monthly or biweekly check-ins to optimize your training plan based on your needs.
- Movement training to optimize your exercise technique and reduce your risk of injury.
- Comprehensive education and guidance to maintain and improve your overall health.
As leaders in physical therapy, exercise, and injury recovery, you can count on our team of experts at DPT to meet you where you’re at and help you achieve your goals, and optimize your longevity with confidence.