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Exercise and Longevity

By , Caring.com contributing editor
Last updated: December 12, 2012
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If exercising to reduce stress or ward off diseases feels a little abstract to you, how about this incentive: Exercise can make you live longer.

Adults who do some moderate to vigorous physical exercise for at least 150 minutes a week live longer than couch potatoes, says a study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

That's just half an hour a day, five days a week.

The researchers, at Queens University in Ontario, Canada, say this finding adds to other research showing that people are more likely to make behavior changes when they hear about the positive benefits. That apparently beats just hearing about the negative consequences if they don't exercise or eat right.

To that end, here are a few more exercise benefits that caregivers will appreciate:

  • An I-can-cope mood.
    Dieting can make you cranky. But physical movement releases feel-good hormones and gives you more energy. And who doesn't need more of those things?

  • Better sleep.
    Poor sleep plagues many caregivers and can set off a cascade of health woes. A little sweat by day beats a sleeping pill at night.

  • Being steadier on your feet.
    Exercise improves balance and helps reduce falls. You already know that's a big issue for an aging adult. But the need for better balance helps everyone in midlife and beyond, not just the frail.

  • Brain protection.
    Exercise can slow the rate of cognitive decline in people with dementia. It may also help reduce the risk of developing dementia in the first place.

  • Less pain, more physical gain.
    Moderate exercise can help ease challenging symptoms related to congestive heart failure, arthritis, fibromyalgia, or diabetes. In fact, it's hard to think of many physical conditions in which at least some form of exercise doesn't make the patient feel some reprieve from symptoms.

  • Easier weight loss, especially as you get older.
    We lose muscle as we age. But if you preserve or gain muscle mass, it's easier to lose weight after 40. So along with those aerobic activities you need to do to extend your life, add a few hand weights to build muscle mass.

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