How to Work Out For Longevity, According to Experts

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When it comes to working out, it’s easy to fixate on the here and now – sometimes only thinking as far as your last rep. But according to the Healthy Aging Study, conducted by functional fitness brand Pvolve and the University of Exeter, it pays to exercise for your future self. We already know that exercise is great for overall longevity, but as a clinical trial specifically focused on women aged 40-60 throughout various phases of menopause, the Healthy Aging Study gives us a better idea of what women can do now to set themselves up for happier, healthier lives.

Consider exercise a form of “future-proofing” says Nima Alamdari , PhD, clinical advisory board member at Pvolve and honorary professor of sport and health sciences at the University of Exeter. “It is really important to think about women in this context because women are actually particularly susceptible to some of the changes with regards to aging,” Dr. Alamdari tells POPSUGAR. These changes include a (slightly alarming) three to eight percent muscle decline per decade. “Starting in your thirties, you’re going to start to get a natural progressive loss of muscle function and lean muscle mass as a female,” Dr. Alamdari says. “Later in life, this becomes quite important because that decline of strength, function, stability, mobility, can equate to changes of quality of life.”

The good news is, there are ways to offset this decline and gear your workout towards longevity. To learn how to work out for a longer, healthier life we dug into the findings from the Healthy Aging Study and spoke to experts about the best exercise for longevity. Read on for all of their top “future-proofing” advice.

What Kind of Exercise Is Best For Longevity?

When it comes to working out for longevity, there are a few exercises and types of movement to keep in mind, says Mark Kovacs, PhD, FACSM, CSCS, VP of Health & Performance at Canyon Ranch. That includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • Resistance Training: “Exercise programming for longevity, and specifically for female longevity, should incorporate many components, but one that is arguably the most important is increasing resistance training,” Dr. Kovacs says. Resistance training comes with a wide range of longevity benefits, including better hormonal function, fall prevention, improvements in bone density, decreased joint and muscle pain, and potentially improved body image. One example of total body resistance training is a “trap bar deadlift,” which Dr. Kocacs says you can try by picking up an appropriately heavy weight from the floor. “Ensure good technique and try to increase resistance on a regular basis.”
  • Zone 2 Exercises: For longevity training, Dr. Kovacs also recommends focusing on a combination of higher intensity exercise and more moderate (also known as Zone two) exercises. “Zone two is specifically at an intensity that is hard enough that it raises heart rate and breathing rate, but you can still maintain a conversation,” Dr. Kovacs says. These kinds of exercises can increase VO2max, or “the maximal amount of oxygen you can take in and utilize during exercise,” he explains. Cycling, swimming, rowing, running, and cardio on the elliptical are all examples of zone two exercises.
  • Eccentric training and cardiovascular work: As far as slowing the decline of lean muscle and strength, Dr. Alamdari recommends a combination of eccentric training for muscle mass, and cardiovascular work for better lipid profiles, cholesterol levels, and overall longevity. “You need to think about a hybrid way of exercise because the eccentric contraction of your muscle that’s load-bearing or resistance-based is really important to preserve your muscle mass,” he says. Eccentric exercises like lowering into a squat or pushing back into a Romanian deadlift, help lengthen the muscles, absorb shock, and prepare the body for concentric exercises (which shorten or contract the muscles). While concentric exercises are also good for strength, studies show that eccentric training is more effective at building and preserving muscle mass, which is helpful as we age. Low-impact cardiovascular activity is good for longevity, too – but on its own, it doesn’t address this progressive loss of muscle mass (and high-impact cardio isn’t always safe or sustainable).

Ultimately, as you age, a hybrid model emphasizing cardiovascular movement and low-impact resistance training will be your best bet for a longer, healthier life. In fact, when compared to standard American physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes per week of moderate cardio and strength training, the Healthy Aging Study found that for women, a low-impact, resistance training workout (i.e. the Pvolve method) was more effective for physiological changes such as hip function, body strength, mobility, and stability, as well as quality of life improvements like increased energy and lower blood lipids.

What Exercises Should You Avoid For Longevity?

High intensity workouts can be great for some people, but when you’re focusing on longevity, it can be a riskier choice. “High intensity exercise, although very valuable, is difficult for many individuals to do for extended periods, and if done incorrectly, may increase injury risk in certain population groups,” Dr. Kovacs explains. Cardio is still important for longevity, but low-impact options (like walking, swimming, rowing, yoga, cycling, running on the elliptical, and hiking) reduce the risk of injury, are often easier on your joints, and may help improve balance and flexibility.

Why Should You Work Out For Longevity?

Some of the most compelling reasons to work out for longevity go far beyond physical fitness. People’s quality of life improved also improved by focusing on low-impact, resistance training workouts, Dr. Nima says. The Healthy Aging study also noted developments like better balance and mobility, a 23 percent improvement in fatigue, increased lean muscle mass, and decreased cholesterol levels and triglycerides, all from engaging in lower-impact exercise like the Pvolve method.

Dr. Kovacs adds that training with longevity in mind is a smart way to stay committed to your health for longer. “Structuring your workouts with focus on improving longevity allows for greater purpose and motivation for individuals to stick with a long term training program,” he says. “The goal is to improve body function and markers of health that can contribute to improved longevity for the future, but just as important is to feel, look, and perform better today.”

Related: How to Breathe When Running For Better Stamina and Performance, According to Coaches

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