There aren’t many things we can start doing in our 50s and 60s that guarantee to increase longevity (there are plenty of things we can stop doing!), but there is one small activity health experts are now saying can add up to seven years to our lives.
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Best of all, it doesn’t require any special equipment or cost any money – and we only need to do it for 25 minutes.
It’s walking, of course – researchers have found that adding just 25 minutes of brisk walking to your day can halve your risk of dying from a heart attack.
Coronary heart disease is Australia’s single biggest killer, and a new study presented at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress suggested that regular exercise can cut our risk and increase our life span.
A group of 69 healthy non-smokers, aged between 30 and 60, who did not take regular exercise were tested as part of the study at Saarland University in Germany.
During six months of regular aerobic exercise, high-intensity interval training and strength training, blood tests showed that an anti-ageing process had been triggered and helped repair old DNA.
Sanjay Sharma, professor of inherited cardiac diseases in sports cardiology at St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in London said, “This suggests that when people exercise regularly, they may be able to retard the process of ageing.”
“Exercise buys you three to seven additional years of life. It is an antidepressant, it improves cognitive function and there is now evidence that it may retard the onset of dementia.”
At least 20 minutes of walking or jogging a day will provide all these benefits and more – exercise can also improve brain functioning.
The great news is that exercise brings benefits at whatever age the person starts. People who start exercising at the age of 70 are less likely to go on to develop a condition that leads to irregular or racing heart rates in 10 per cent of people aged over 80, according to the study.
“The study brings a bit more understanding of why physical activity has that effect,” said Christi Deaton, Florence Nightingale Foundation Professor of Clinical Nursing Research at Cambridge Institute of Public Health.
“It helps us understand the process of cellular ageing, as that’s what drives our organ system and body ageing, and the effects physical activity can have on the cellular level.
“The more active you are, and it doesn’t matter when you start, the more benefit you are going to have.”
Do you enjoy a daily walk? Can you fit in juts 20 -25 minutes a day? What tips do you have for those who are yet to start?