Clock This: 3 Easy Longevity Bets by the Numbers

Clock This

Live to 100? Why not? Daily exercise is shown to boost both length and quality of life. Photo: svetikd/Getty Ima

Daily exercise is shown to boost both length and quality of life by reducing risk of age-related diseases, including cardiovascular and Type 2 diabetes. But how much exercise do we need to make it worthwhile?

According to a 2020 meta-analysis of more than 44,000 people, with an average age of 65, from Sweden, Norway, the U.S. and U.K., who performed eight to 35 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) a day, reducing risk of death plateaued with 11 minutes of MVPA — as long as study participants also spent fewer than 8.5 hours a day being sedentary.

Try adding these tips to your daily routine.


1. Get up, Stand Up 


First, sit less. Aim for at least nine minutes of standing an hour, says research in the last five or so years, and get up every 30 minutes. Set a recurring timer if you need a reminder. Second, make that daily walk a brisk one, which counts as moderately intense activity (as do chores like vacuuming or mowing the lawn). If it’s on a treadmill, walk while you watch a nature program, as it’s been shown to mimic the benefits of “green exercise,” such as strolling through a park, which can boost mood and reduce stress. It may not replace the wellness boon of an outdoor hike, but every bit helps. If you’re able, boost the intensity to vigorous by switching to a jog, which burns more calories. Even carrying heavy groceries up the stairs counts as vigorous activity.


2. Kick It Old School 


The late Prince Philip, who stayed trim and active throughout his 99 years, ascribed to the 11-minute workout. And, there’s a Canadian connection — the 5BX (Five Basic Exercises) regime the Duke of Edinburgh was said to have followed every day was developed in 1956 to help members of the Royal Canadian Air Force keep fit without the need for equipment — perfect for pandemic times. A Google search brings up the original 30-page pamphlet with intensity guidelines and exercise diagrams. The routine begins with two minutes of stretching, followed by one minute each of sit-ups, back extensions and push-ups, and ends with six minutes of running on the spot (interspersed every 75 steps with scissor jumps or jack jumps). Fans include Helen Mirren, who revealed in 2014 that she followed the XBX, a 12-minute version developed for women. “It is the exercise I have done off and on my whole life. It just very gently gets you fit,” said Mirren, then 68.

3. Home Stretch  


If your fitness goals include combatting high blood pressure, which puts you at a higher risk of heart disease, increase the stretching interval. A 2020 study out of the University of Saskatchewan showed that a 30-minute whole-body stretch, done five days a week, was better at reducing blood pressure in older adults with hypertension than brisk walking for the same amount of time. The researchers, however, did note that the participants who walked rather than stretched did lose more weight. 

A version of this article appeared in the Oct/Nov 2021 issue with the headline “Clock This,” p. 50.