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Exercise Variety is the Spice of Life

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Study Finds Varied Physical Activity May be Linked to Longevity 

We typically advise to mix up your workout routine—it’s common sense. Variety keeps your muscles activated and your mind stimulated, offering well-rounded fitness with lower risk of boredom. But there may be another reason to switch up your exercise regimen: longevity. 

In a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, American researchers assessed longevity based on length of telomeres, repetitive DNA sequences on chromosomes that protect genomic DNA. Telomeres are a marker of aging, and shorter telomeres means shorter life expectancy.  

Researchers measured telomere length via blood samples in 6,503 NHANES participants aged 20 to 84 years. They also reviewed questionnaires that assessed participants’ usual physical activity to determine how often they did four different types of activity: moderate exercise, vigorous exercise, walking/cycling for transportation, and strength training. 

Results suggest variety is the spice of life and longevity. Compared with people who did no activity, those who did all four types of exercise had 52% reduced odds of being in the lowest versus highest group of telomere length—suggesting lower odds of early death. When age was considered, that figure jumped to 61% reduced odds in those aged 40 to 64 years, meaning those years could be the most crucial for mixing up your exercise habits. 

Though the mechanism is unclear, the recommendation is straightforward: Include a variety of activities in your weekly workout schedule and squeeze in physical activity throughout the day by biking to work or walking for your errands. Try yoga, Pilates, jogging, swimming, strength training or group sports like soccer—anything that gets you up and moving! 

BONUS: In a Swiss study, employees who used only the stairs at work for three months saw a 9% increase in aerobic capacity, which translates into a 15% drop in the chances of premature death.

Published November 1, 2016

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