If you're not in a hurry to grow old, get moving! Exercise is key to a healthy longevity

Scientific and technological progress has extended the average life span, but the real challenge is to achieve an actually healthy longevity

‘Get up, run or at least walk’ is the title of the 8th chapter of ‘The code for healthy longevity’ (published by Mondadori) by Camillo Ricordi, one of the world's leading diabetes experts. This title also serves as a warning to readers: “Physical exercise is important not only to maintain a ‘mens sana in corpore sano(a healthy mind in a healthy body), but above all it has a stimulating action on sirtuins, proteins that are essential for maintaining the youthfulness and diversification of our most specialised tissues, contributing significantly to our healthy life expectancy” comments the doctor. “Up to age 60, physical activity is enough to produce them, afterwards they must be supplemented” he says. “The production of sirtuins tends to decrease after the age of 35, and begins to decrease more significantly around the age of 60” adds Silvano Zanuso, director of Technogym's Medical Scientific Department and one of the authors of the study. “The good news is that their production can be stimulated by specific dietary strategies, natural supplements and exercise”.
In the paper, Camillo Ricordi argues that physical activity is one of the three fundamental pillars for a long and healthy life, in addition to proper nutrition and the right supplements. “If we were able to provide everyone with the right amount of nutrition and exercise, neither in defect nor in excess, we would have found the definitive road to health”: a reality as old as the world itself. As a matter of fact, it was Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.), considered the father of modern medicine, who uttered this phrase. And nothing could be truer even today. According to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, for example, just 11 minutes of daily movement and keeping sedentariness under 8 hours, is enough to extend our lifespan. Over the past few years, doctors and scientists have discovered that there are several ways to age slower and healthily.

The benefits on mind and body

Physical activity also plays a role as a natural anxiolytic, producing endorphins and activating natural endocannobinoids. It stimulates natural protection against anxiety and depression, other factors that inhibit healthy longevity.

On the other hand, how does exercise contribute to a healthier body? A simple jog, for example, activates heart, lungs, bones, and joints, thus setting in motion the cardiorespiratory, vascular and osteoarticular systems, just to name the main ones. All this is mediated by a series of endocrine modifications and by the production of specific hormones enabling movement and increased intensity levels. However, if the ‘acute’ stimulus of a single exercise session is repeated over time and alternated with rest times, ‘chronic’ modifications take place, and they get consequently stable over time. Therefore, our organism trains itself to withstand the stimuli induced by exercise with the result that – depending on the type of activity performed – the resting heart rate is lowered, muscles’ ability to turn oxygen into energy increases, and muscle fibres get stronger and tougher.

The road to healthier longevity

What kind of activity is best for living longer and better? “First of all, it is important to distinguish between physical activity and exercise” Zanuso points out. ‘Physical activity’ in fact, refers to any type of movement that determines an increase in energy expenditure compared to a resting condition. ‘Exercise’, on the other hand, identifies a sub-category of physical activity that includes all activities that imply human body moving; exercise is performed with precise aims and following precise criteria in terms of duration, intensity and frequency.

For sedentary subjects, the transition from immobility to modest levels of physical activity brings immediate benefits. In subjects who are already regularly active, who walk and take the stairs, for example, in order to obtain further benefits it is not enough to increase physical activity, i.e. to be more on the move, but it is necessary to supplement it with specific activities such as cardiofitness, weights, but also with activities that can be carried out outdoors such as cross-country skiing, cycling or jogging. In short, all activities that can lead to increased intensity.

Therefore, it is ideal to stay active on a regular basis (walking or cycling, or preferring the stairs to the lift), also integrating these basic activities with two or three weekly sessions of structured exercise, preferably supervised by experienced trainers: “For each person, there's a targeted exercise plan to be structured, which is why we have a collaborative project with Technogym to develop training programmes – combining aerobic activity and strength exercises – that are targeted for each person's specific needs and fitness level. These programmes can be performed directly on Technogym equipment, with the precious guidance of Technogym App” concludes Camillo Ricordi.

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