You can literally walk into long life, health experts have said.
A report published by UK newspaper, Express, says a new research has shown that regular exercise can reduce ageing and increase the average life span significantly.
But doctors stressed that the exercise does not need to be rigorous and is easily achievable for most people.
Professor Sanjay Sharma, of St George’s Hospital, south London, said even the most moderate of exercise reduces the risk of dying from a heart attack in an average person in their 50s and 60s by half.
Physical activity can help reduce your risk of heart disease. It can also help you control your weight, reduce blood pressure and improve your mental health
In a paper presented to the European Society of Cardiology congress in London, he said: “This study suggests that when people exercise regularly they may be able to retard the process of ageing.
“We may never completely avoid becoming old but we may delay the time we become old. We may look younger when we’re 70 and live into our 90s. Exercise buys you three to seven additional years of life. It is an anti-depressant, it improves cognitive function and there is now evidence that it may retard the onset of dementia.”
Professor Sharma said everyone should try to do at least 20 to 25 minutes a day, involving brisk walking or slow jogging.
“If you know that something is 20 minutes away, try to walk it if you’ve got time and not take the bus,” he added.
“People with a heart condition shouldn’t run but walk to a point where they can still speak but they shouldn’t be able to sing. Following these simple directions is essential considering our sedentary lifestyles.”
Exercise can be beneficial whatever your age. People who start at the age of 70 are less likely to develop atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm disturbance that affects about 10 per cent of over- 80s.
The research was carried out by a team at Saarland University in Germany using non-exercising but otherwise healthy and nonsmoking volunteers.
It showed that aerobic exercise, high-intensity interval training and strength training all have a positive impact but endurance and high-intensity exercise may be more efficient than just lifting weights.
The authors of the report said the exercise had helped repair the volunteers’ DNA.
Professor Christi Deaton, of Cambridge Institute of Public Health, said: “The study brings a bit more understanding of why physical activity has that effect.
“It helps us understand the process of cellular ageing as that’s what drives our organ system and body ageing. The more active you are, and it doesn’t matter when you start, the more benefit you are going to have.
“We recommend people who have cardiovascular disease to be physically active because it’s beneficial for them, so there’s really no reason for healthy people not to exercise as well.”
The British Heart Foundation has long stressed the importance of exercise. A spokesman said: “Physical activity can help reduce your risk of heart disease. It can also help you control your weight, reduce blood pressure and improve your mental health.”
The new findings back up those of researchers at Cardiff University who concluded that regular exercise, sensible eating, maintaining a healthy weight, minimal alcohol consumption and not smoking were the steps that guarantee longevity.
The research also tallies with a study by Cambridge University’s Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit which found that a brisk walk every day could reduce the risk of early death by almost a third.
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