December 8, 2011

Average Life Expectancy: Defined by Fitness Level, Not Weight

Filed under: exercise — Tags: , , , — patt @ 9:16 pm

cardiovascular fitnessAlthough diet and weights are stressed as important health contributors, a new study deems that shaping up, and keeping in shape is the most important factor when discussing average life expectancy. This study was conducted at the University of South Carolina; consisting of 14,345 male participants, the participants were given treadmill tests over six years, and then they had eleven years of follow up interviews. While all of the participants were trying to lose weight, the researchers found that those who continued to increase their endurance level, or maintain it, over the studied period faced less health problems than those who failed to maintain their fitness levels, even if the latter lost weight! Further, during the eleven year follow up period, 914 died from causes ranging from heart disease to stroke. The majority of participants who died from poor fitness level related deaths (i.e. heart disease and stroke) were those whose fitness level decreased, even if they lost weight. The lead researcher of the study, Duck-chul Lee, concludes that “you can worry less about your weight as long as you continue to maintain or increase your fitness levels.”

The results of this study on average life expectancy stress the continual need to physically push yourself; you should always strive to increase your physical fitness level. Remember, fitness is broken into three subsections – cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility – and you should work on improving all three! With this in mind, below are some suggestions for ways to improve your fitness level:

Cardiovascular training: Cardiovascular fitness is synonymous for aerobic activity, which includes activities like running, swimming, biking, fast walking, aerobic classes, etc. When doing aerobic activities, aim to raise your heart rate to up to 50-85% of your maximum heart rate. If you are just starting an exercise program, or have not exercised some time, work your endurance up slowly. Start by doing at least twenty minutes of cardiovascular activity, increasing your exercise session every few weeks. You should start by exercising at least three times a week with a goal of ultimately exercising five times a week.

Strength training: Strength training workouts test muscular strength. These workouts consist of activities such as weight machines, free weights, tubing, and calisthenics (i.e. push-ups, abdominal crunches). In order to strength train, you will need access to a location with weight machine facilities – so buy a gym membership! In general, the rule is to use an appropriate weight, whereby you will fatigue the muscle after the number of intended repetitions. In the beginning, you should aim to perform resistance training exercises two times a week, at least twenty to thirty minutes per session. Eventually, you should work up to training four times a week, at twenty to thirty minutes per session, completing two to three sets at eight to twelve repetitions each.

Flexibility Training: Flexibility exercises are defined as the range of motion around a joint. It is important to maintain an adequate range of motion in order to reach peak performance in cardiovascular and strength activities. The bad news is, certain factors, such as age, inactivity, and gender, contribute to a loss of range of motion. The good news is, working on stretching can increase your range of motion and have added benefits, such as reducing muscle soreness and reducing the risk of injury. You can work on your flexibility by attending yoga or Pilatesclass! You should also stretch after cardiovascular or strength activity; hold each posture for ten to thirty seconds.

By following the above recommendations, you will surely increase the average life expectancy in your household, hopefully leading to a long and happy life!