Exercise has been shown to have a quick effect on human growth hormone levels which improves longevity. Exercise also improves telomere length (reduces the rate of loss) which improves longevity. Exercise is defined in many ways – strength, endurance, balance, flexibility, etc. We need a balance of all types of exercise to live a great quality of life – to attain that overall fitness that will allow us to do the things we want to do when we age.
Studies have confirmed that people living a sedentary lifestyle have shorter telomere lengths. Long-distance runners typically have telomere lengths equivalent to their peers ten years younger. Endurance running leads to a slower rate of telomere loss. This doesn’t happen in the short term. Tests results indicate that about five years is needed for the body to fully adapt to the change in physiological lifestyle change of endurance running.
There was an Australian exercise study of over 1700 men over the age of 70 walking on a regular basis. It was determined that a slow walk (2 miles per hour or less) had no appreciable effect on telomere length or mortality rate. It was when the walking pace increased to at least 3 miles per hour that the mortality rate improved (people lived longer). Telomere length is short in both couch potatoes and extremely over-active exercisers. The lack of exercise is a lifestyle choice. Why did the overly active group have shorter telomeres? Wouldn’t they equate to the endurance runners?
The level of oxidative stress at the cellular level in the body is a result of intensity and frequency. Long distance runners take years to achieve a higher level of oxygen capacity during exercise. During this transition from little to no exercise through the training of short and then longer distance, the body gradually adapts to increased oxygen capacity. The same is true with walking. A sedentary lifestyle cannot turn on a switch and walk at a brisk pace for many miles. The body has to adjust to the ‘new’ norm of exercise. Increasing intensity, endurance, frequency, and strength are achieved over time with consistency.
The intensity of exercise is measured by how much oxygen is consumed while performing the exercise. Most people use their heart rate to measure their intensity. For the experienced athlete, this is a good measure. For the novice, it is not. Each of us has a maximum heart rate. The higher the intensity of the exercise, the closer you approach the upper limit of what your heart can pump. This is typically measured in beats per minute.