Active Lifestyle More Important than Genes for Longevity

All of us have heard it or thought about it. When calculating how long we will live, we almost universally look to our family as a guide. That can be a positive thing or a negative one. Some people expect to make old bones because no one in their family dies before the age of ninety-five. Others spend time fretting because their parents and grandparents died young.

However, recent research from the Univ. of California San Diego may change how we view longevity and our genes. As a San Diego-based company, we love it when we can share news from our local university; it’s even better when the information is something that can positively impact your life!

Regardless of your genetic predisposition, adding more physical activity to your day can lead to a longer life. That’s according to a study of almost 5,500 women above the age of 63. The women wore accelerometers to track how long and how intensely they moved during the day. Women who were less sedentary and moved more increased their lifespan.

Our study showed that even if you aren’t likely to live long based on your genes, you can still extend your lifespan by engaging in positive lifestyle behaviors such as regular exercise and sitting less,” said Aladdin Shadyab, lead study author and an assistant professor of public health and human longevity science at UCSD. “Conversely, even if your genes predispose you to a long life, remaining physically active is still important to achieve longevity.”

It could be that if your family is prone to long lives, they are also more active. If you think about their lives, were they busy people who had full days? If so, it might have had less to do with genes and more to do with their lifestyle.

The research began in 2012 and tracked 5,446 women through 2020. The difference in longevity between the people who moved and the sedentary people was obvious across the board, regardless of people’s genetic propensity for an early death.

Historically speaking, women have been grossly underrepresented in clinical trials. This study is beneficial in that we don’t have anywhere near as much data about women’s health as men’s. However, this study is limited by not having men. We don’t know if the results are the same for men. We also don’t know if exercising more at a younger age would change health outcomes to a greater extent. Another study with a larger group of people would be needed to see that.

Moreover, this study does not prove that exercise causes the change in longevity. It showed that women who exercise more live longer regardless of their genes. But it doesn’t prove that exercise is the reason that is happening. More studies are needed to draw that final conclusion. However, the study does indicate that moving more and being less sedentary can increase your lifespan. So, until that is disproven, we think it’s pretty great advice to follow!    

Banner image: RODNAE Productions via Pexels

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