Exercise and Longevity

Exercise and Longevity

A regular, weekly exercise routine has been proven to increase longevity and prevent many of the most common health problems.

I’ve been writing about it for years and am a big proponent of exercise for health and vitality. But, how do you stay motivated to get your exercise on a daily basis and how much exercise do you need to do?

How do you stay motivated to exercise every week?

By seeing people who exercise and who look and feel great. My husband, who reads the Wall Street Journal every morning, just sent me a link to a very motivating local woman featured in the WSJ – and we don’t live anywhere near New York. Click here to see the article and photo. I hope to be her at 89!

The article discusses 89 year-old Gail Roper, who lives in Healdsburg (our part of the world), and she is diligent about her exercise. She swims three times a week and more. She is a former U.S. Olympian and has been a Masters swimmer for years. She also finds ways to turn daily housework into fitness exercises such as doing lunges when she vacuums or bicep curls with a cold iron before ironing! It’s creative multitasking and gets the exercises into her day. And – the photo of her in the WSJ shows her energy, happiness and vitality. For me, Gail is a role model. If I resemble Gail in any way when I am 89, I’ll be thrilled.

What diseases does exercise help to prevent and reverse?

The benefits of exercise have been shown to help fight and slow some of the most common health problems::

  • Heart disease and other cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure and stroke.
  • Diabetes and obesity. Exercise helps you better maintain a healthy blood sugar and energy level.
  • Arthritis and back pain (both of which I have battled and I know from personal experience that exercise is essential).
  • Asthma
  • Dementia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s
  • Cancer (which matters a lot to me thanks to inheriting the BRCA breast and ovarian cancer gene and being a cancer survivor myself).

Exercise has even been shown to reverse cellular aging – Yes, turn back your cellular clock.

Why does exercise keep you healthy?

Exercise changes your body’s physiology:

  • helping to fight inflammation that promotes cancer, cardiovascular disease and many of the other common health problems;
  • boosting your immune system; and
  • lowering your risk of obesity (also linked to health problems and increased risk of cancer).

It probably does so much more that is yet to be discovered. I know that I look and feel so much more alive and energetic after a good workout. The photo of Gail supports this – I want to look as vital as Gail does if I am lucky enough to make it to 89.

How much exercise do you need to stay healthy?

I’ve followed the medical and scientific literature about exercise for years and distilled it to practical terms. My goal is 150 minutes a week of moderate cardio plus strengthening and flexibility workouts too. I aim for 3 weekly 50 minute sessions of moderate cardio. This means:

150 minutes a week (2 hours and 30 minutes total) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity

Measured by being able to talk, but not sing!
CDC gives examples as:

  • walking briskly at 3 miles per hour or faster,
  • water aerobics,
  • bicycling slower than 10 miles per hour,
  • doubles tennis,
  • ballroom dancing,
  • general gardening.


75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) of vigorous intensity aerobic activity

Measured by being unable to say more than a few words without catching your breath! CDC gives examples as:

  • jogging or race walking,
  • swimming laps,
  • singles tennis,
  • aerobic dancing,
  • bicycling 10 miles per hour or faster,
  • jumping rope,
  • heavy gardening like digging or hoeing,
  • hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack.


A combination of these performed in at least 10-minute sessions throughout the week.

It’s very doable!

The best anti-aging fitness routine.

In addition to cardio exercise, you also want to do:

Strength training

Strength training will help prevent the age-related loss of muscle mass. You need strength to get you through the normal activities of daily living, such as getting in and out of the bathtub, up stairs, etc. Resistance training also helps keep bones stronger and helps to support your joints. Options include weight training, pushups and squats, yoga, or even heavy gardening.

Flexibility exercises

Flexibility exercises are also important to maintain range of motion for your joints.

Stability exercises

Stability exercises are also important to help maintain balance and prevent falls.

yoga exercise for longevity and healthy aging

Flexibility, strength and stability workouts are why yoga is such a multitasking exercise – you get a three-fer in a yoga class. I’m a fan!

Let Gail be our motivation – at 89 she rocks the vitality. It’s spring, capture your natural yearning to go outside for a walk. Sign up for yoga or some weight training at your local gym. Do some stretches with your workouts. Let spring keep us moving.

And, when you are exercising outdoors, be sure to use good sun protection.

This is important for your skin health! UV rays cause skin fragility and thinning over the years. Wear a hat and sun protective clothing and a good zinc oxide sunscreen.

dermatologist's sun protection for exercise
Click here for my dermatologist’s sun protection tips and solutions.

Note in the photo that Gail is also wearing a full body swimsuit, just like I do when I swim. Yes, I get strange looks in the pool, but my skin will last a lifetime, and I get a better work out thanks to the drag from the suit in the water.