This may seem silly, given what so many believe is the age at which we should be physically preparing for death. A common assumption is that the faster we get to 40, the better we should be, because the body is less likely to degenerate. And yet there is evidence that an advanced, more vigorous stage of life (such as being 60) may actually be more beneficial than a less advanced, more sedentary one (for those with older kids who are not yet “young adults” but who do not want or can’t stop having them).
Here are some evidence that an advanced period of activity leads to more longevity: An earlier age at heart disease—but only for those whose risk factors are controlled—and a shorter amount of time between a heart attack and death are key in this process. There also appears to be a dose-response relationship. After 40, we begin to benefit from the same amount of exercise as at 20, but the reverse is true after 20. It’s not a great reason to get back into a treadmill running group, but exercise alone isn’t the only factor involved.
It’s possible that exercise has different effects on aging than weight loss, diet, and genetics; however, the literature isn’t strong on this point (I found no evidence to support a link either way). On the other hand, if exercise (especially high intensity) doesn’t delay aging in the long run, what’s the point of cutting weight?
How much exercise should I do?
Most people, including myself, would suggest that anyone can achieve a good state of health by the age of 45 (with some exceptions), but we would not suggest that everyone who wants to go out for a run at 40 should go out for a run at 40. (Indeed, in a recent study I did with David Perlmutter of the Boston Marathon, the runners in the 90 to 120 group who finished within two minutes of each other did not have significantly different performance characteristics compared to those in the 95 to 150 group.) As with anything in a sport that requires very high intensity, it’s possible to have too much—if you get a bad reaction to a workout, you might not enjoy it as much the next day.
My own theory is that people who want to keep running their miles—particularly on a regular basis, especially to maintain the quality of their running—should have an even lower level of fitness than myself. That might mean about 20,000 steps a week, or
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