Exercise And Longevity: Why It Matters And How To Improve

Can you sit down on the floor and then get back up again without using your hands or other supports? It might seem like an odd question, but a study in the European Journal of Preventative Cardiology has found that this simple exercise may predict longevity. 

The study took 2,000 respondents ranging in age from 51-80, observed their performance in the ‘sitting-rising test,’ and subtracted a point every time they used hands, knees or forearms as a support to help them stand again. The resulting score was able to predict longevity in many cases.  

“6.3 years later, 159 people died—the majority of whom had the most trouble performing the test. In fact, Araújo’s team found that if a subject’s score fell between zero to three, he or she had a five- to six-times higher risk of death than those who scored between eight to 10 [1].”

It’s not the first time exercise and longevity will be linked, nor will it be the last. In fact, a study has found that exercise is an essential part of “successful aging” that holds many benefits in terms of mortality, prevention and control of chronic disease, and life expectancy [2].

The authors of the exercise and longevity study claimed that “exercise can help add years to life, and above all, add life to years, by partially counteracting the effects of aging on physiological functions and preserving functional reserve in elderly.” The benefits of maintaining a minimal quantity and quality of exercise included lowered risk of osteoperosis and cardiovascular mortality, prevention of the development of some cancers, and increased longevity.

In time, the scientific community may be able to provide us with a more precise prescription in terms of exercise for longevity. However, this study found four key areas that could be of great benefit to the aging and elderly.

Aerobic exercise – In addition to its cardiovascular and weight-loss beneifts,  aerobic exercise is thought to reduce the incidence of and mortality from coronary heart disease. It reaps positive benefits for blood lipid levels and hypertension, along with impacts upon mental health, and modulation of stress. Best of all, the problems associated with this type of exercise are minimal in comparison to its benefits [3]. We also know that, as aerobic exercise helps dispense with abdominal fat, the patients risk of insulin resistance and its associated problems (such as diabetes) fall when aerobic exercise is included in their regular lifestyle[4].

Resistance training – Resistance training is often called weight or strength training. Basically, it uses resistance to build the strength, endurance and size of skeletal muscles. Benefits of of resistance training include improved strength and muscle tone, maintainence of healthy weight (especially when combined with aerobic exercise), and positive impacts on bone density [5]. Interestingly, resistance training has been found to increase the threshold and delay the onset of neuromuscular fatigue in older adults [6].

Flexibility – Flexibility training holds many benefits that include posture, circulation and range of movement. Popular flexibility training methods include yoga, pilates and Tai chi. Each of these is thought to have its own benefits. Tai Chi, for example, is thought to impact balance, Pilates improves strength and flexibility and yoga is thought to positively impact heart function and blood pressure [7]. Methods of flexibility training could be as structured as taking a guided yoga class, or as simple as stretching before and after aerobic exercise.

Balance -Falls prevention and improved posture are among the benefits of balance training, which has the potential to greatly decrese the financial and health-related costs of aging. Best of all, its easy. Often improved balance is a by-product of strength, resistance or flexibility training. Preliminary studies are even showing that there are benefits for Fybromyalgia sufferers.

Incorporating these four key areas into people’s lives may just improve their longevity and also add life to their years, not just years to their life.

From a chiropractic point of view, there are some interesting questions. How does normalizing nervous system function, increasing adaptability, decreasing stress and improving health and wellbeing impact energy, flexibility, strength, balance and people’s ability to do aerobic exercise?

What role does the chiropractor play in helping people improve their health by incorporating healthy habits? Does giving advice about exercise possibly reduce the recurrence of subluxations?

Wouldn’t it be great if we had research that speaks to these sorts of questions.



[1] Haller, M (2012), “Want to predict your longevity? Simple test might have the answers,” Prevention Magazine, http://www.prevention.com/health/healthy-living/simple-flexibility-test-might-predict-lifespan retrieved 29 May 2015

[2] Gremeaux, V, Gayda, M, Lepers, R, Sosner, P, Juneau, M and Nigam, A, (2012), “Exercise and Longevity,” Maturitas. 2012 Dec;73(4):312-7. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2012.09.012. Epub 2012 Oct 11.

[3] Mersey, D (1991), “Health Benefits of Aerobic Exercise,” Postgrad Med. 1991 Jul;90(1):103-7, 110-2., PMID: 2062750

[4] Ryan, A, (2000), “Insulin resistance with aging: effects of diet and exercise, “ Sports Med, 2000, Nov;30(50):327-46, PMID: 11103847

[5] Staff writer, (2015), “The Health Benefits of Resistance Training,” Better Health Channel, http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Resistance_training_the_health_benefits?open retrieved 29 May 2015

[6] Emerson, N, Stout, J, Fukuda, D, Robinson, E, Scanlon, T, Beyer, K, Fragala, M and Hoffman, J (2015),” Institute of Exercise Physiology and Wellness, University of Central Florida,  DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.archger.2015.04.002

[7] Freishtat, S (2015), “5 reasons your flexibility matters and how to improve it,” The Cheat Sheet,  http://www.cheatsheet.com/life/5-reasons-your-flexibility-matters-and-how-to-improve-it.html/?a=viewall  retrieved 29 May 2015

[8] Kibar S, Yildiz, H, Ay, S, Evcik, D and Ergin, E, (2015), “A New Approach in Fibromyaligia Exercise Program: A Preliminary Study Regarding the Effectiveness of Balance Training, “ Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2015 May 19. pii: S0003-9993(15)00416-5. doi: 10.1016/j.apmr.2015.05.004. [Epub ahead of print]

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