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Exercising to Ensure Optimum Health & Longevity
Chronic disease prevention, treatment and healthcare help people to live longer, happier and more productive lives.1 As a species, humans in this century and the last have failed to adapt to sedentary lifestyles, smoking, alcohol and stress. 2, 3 Lack of physical activity causes nearly 30% of all deaths from heart disease, diabetes and colon cancer. 4 However, physical exercise can significantly reduce mortality from degenerative diseases in older adults and greatly improve cardiovascular function, muscle strength and quality of life. 5, 6, 7 Physical exercise at any age helps to extend life. 8, 9 Statistics show that people who adopt healthier lifestyles live longer and postpone and diminish their level of disability toward the end of life. 10
Health span could be described as the total number of years an individual remains in good health. There is little point in living longer if the added years are unhealthy, unproductive, unhappy and painful.
Successful ageing requires ongoing physical exercise and maintenance. Research and statistics now view ageing in general as lifestyle-related. Physical and mental deterioration is dependent on lifestyle and environmental influences: primarily improper diet and lack of exercise. 9, 11, 12 With better lifestyle habits, including exercise, people can avoid many health problems.
Among other benefits, good lifestyle habits can improve:
- Preservation of muscular strength
- Maintenance of joint range-of-motion • Quality of sleep
- Cardiovascular function 6, 13, 14, 15, 16
Life expectancy has been used for many years to estimate overall length of life. However, it does little to establish quality of life, especially as age progresses. Healthy life expectancy was introduced in 2000 by the World Health Organization (WHO) (www.who.int/whr) to establish the expected number of years that a person may live in full health.
Research suggests that possibly less than 10% of adults in the US, England, Australia and Canada exercise with enough intensity to receive discernable health benefits. In addition, adult and adolescent females participate in lower levels of regular physical exercise than adult or adolescent men. 17
It is possible that the decrease in physical activity, as humans age, has a biological basis. Current debates suggest that dopamine production (which regulates motivation for movement) decreases as we age. 18 Physical inactivity results in an array of degenerative problems and conditions that eventually lead to premature death. Sedentary death syndrome (SEDS) is a term now being used to describe this condition. 19
2. Visser M, et al. High body fatness, but not low fat-free mass, predicts disability in older men and women: the Cardiovascular Health Study. Am J Clin Nutr 1998;68:584.
3. Vita AJ, et al. Aging, health risks, and cumulative disability. N Engl J Med 1998;338:1035.
4. Martinez ME, et al. Physical activity, body mass index, and prostaglandin E2 levels in rectal mucosa. J Natl Cancer Inst 1999;91:950.
5. Bronstrup A, et al. Effects of folic acid and combinations of folic acid and vitamin B-12 on plasma homocysteine concentrations in healthy young women. Am J Clin Nutr 1998;68:1104.
6. Huang Y, et al. Physical fitness, physical activity, and functional limitation in adults aged 40 and older. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1998;30:1430.
7. Kosta T, et al. Habitual physical activity and peak anaerobic power in elderly women. Eur J Appl Physiol 1997;76:81.
8. Paffenbarger RS Jr, et al. Changes in physical activity and other life-way patterns influencing longevity. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1994;26:857.
9. Stampfer MJ, et al. Primary prevention of coronary heart disease in women through diet and lifestyle. N Engl J Med 2000;343:92.
10. Powell KE, Blair SN. The public health burdens of sedentary living habits: theoretical but realistic estimates. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1994;26:851.
11. Finch EE, Tanzi RE, Genetics of aging. Science 1997;278:407.
12. Lamberts SWJ, et al. The endocrinology of aging. Science 1997;278:419.
13. Brill PA, et al. Muscular strength and physical function. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2000;32:412.
14. Morey MC, et al. Is there a threshold between peak oxygen uptake and self-reported physical functioning in older adults? Med Sci Sports Exerc 1998;30:1223.
15. Morey MC, et al. Physical fitness and functional limitations in community-dwelling older adults. Med Sci Sports Exerc 1998;30:715
16. Sherrill DL, et al. Association of physical activity and human sleep disorders. Arch Intern Med 1998;158:1894. 17. Caspersen CJ, et al. Changes in physical activity patterns in the United States, by sex and cross-sectional age. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2000;32:1601.
18. Ingram DK. Age-related decline in physical activity: generalization to nonhumans. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2000;32:1623.
19. Booth FW, et al. Waging war on modern chronic diseases: primary prevention through exercise biology. J Appl Physiol 2000;88:774.