You know exercise helps ensure you don’t get winded after walking up a flight of stairs and that you can bend over to tie your shoes without pulling a muscle in your back and getting stuck that way. Recently, scientists have also found that staying active may be the secret to living forever — or at least to living longer and healthier lives.
Here are just a few reasons why scientists believe you should stay active in retirement:
Live Until You’re 100
More Canadians are living to be 100, and Statistics Canada projects that life expectancy and the number of centenarians to increase, but did you know that there are areas of the world with a disproportionate number of centenarians?
When the scientists at National Geographic saw that there were a lot of people over 100 in places like Okinawa in Japan, Ikaria in Greece, and Sardinia in Italy, they decided to study these areas which they called Blue Zones to try to discover the secret to longevity. What they found wasn’t a bunch of seniors doing Zumba or running triathlons.
Instead, most of the regions led lifestyles where people did less strenuous exercise like gardening and walking – but they did a lot of it. For example, locals in Okinawa practice tai chi every morning and then spend the day puttering around in their gardens and those in Sardinia are shepherds and farmers who are constantly moving and on their feet. In a study that was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, it was found that all types of exercise help people live longer, but that certain types of exercise were more likely to decrease your risk of getting ill – namely racquet sports like tennis or racquetball, aerobics, and swimming.
Do you play Sudoku in order to keep your brain sharp? You might be better off putting your pen down and going for a walk.
In a study published in the Journal of Aging Research that looked at older adults already experiencing mild cognitive impairment, it was found that resistance and aerobic training improved both verbal and spatial memory.
Like to lift weights? Doing so won’t just keep your muscles from shrinking, but another study from the National Center for Biotechnology Information found it may also reduce brain shrinkage — a process that occurs with age.
The reason researchers believe exercise is good for protecting your brain is that it triggers the production of something called brain-derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF. As you age, the amount of BDNF you produce decreases, but certain types of exercise boosts your BDNF production and can restore your levels to that of someone younger.
While exercises like aerobics and lifting weights will make the biggest impact, the University of Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Centre recently found that even small amounts of exercise can provide cognitive improvements such as walking for just 20 to 25 minutes several times per week.
Exercise can be a great mood booster and for good reason — it can be a lot of fun to wallop your grandson at tennis or spend the day playing golf.
Look on the Bright Side
But exercise can also lead to hormonal and chemical changes in your body that give you a mood boost and can protect you against depression and anxiety.
You’ve probably heard about runner’s high – that feeling of exhilaration and well being that those who exercise experience after a sweaty cardio session. This feeling is due to chemicals like endorphins, serotonin, and norepinephrine being released while you exercise.
When it comes to longer-term mood improvements, researchers believe that exercise helps by increasing the overall levels of serotonin and brain-derived neurotrophic factor while also helping people sleep better and improving their bodies’ responses to stress.
The moral of these scientific studies is that if you want a healthy and happy retirement, staying active is critical. So lace up your shoes and get moving!
Try our interactive Your Future By Design tool to help identify what your retirement priorities are.
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