How to live longer: The simple exercise you can do at home to boost your life expectancy

Longevity has always been a hot topic but sustaining life for as long as possible has become a top priority amid the current public health crisis. COVID-19, a deadly new strain of virus, has killed scores of people worldwide and threatens the lives of millions more. Governments have responded by instructing people to stay indoors to “flatten the curve” but this measure could have an unintended and adverse impact on life expectancy too.

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The UK public are permitted to do one hour of exercise a day but in reality millions of people will be spending their days sitting down.

Inactivity, combined with an increased temptation to lapse into an unhealthy diet, raises the risk of obesity and other markers associated with heart disease, a major threat to life expectancy.

Fortunately, evidence has found a simple exercise you can do from the comfort of your own home that will increase cardiorespiratory fitness, an important contributor to longevity.

Researchers at McMaster University have found that short, intense bursts of stair climbing have major benefits for heart health.

“This research takes interval training out of the lab and makes it accessible to everyone,” said Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster and lead author on the study.

How did they retrieve these results?

Investigators recruited 31 sedentary but otherwise healthy women and tested the effect of two different protocols, each of which required a 10-minute time commitment, including warm-up, cool down and recovery periods.

The exercise sessions were conducted three times a week over the course of six weeks.

The first protocol involved three, 20-second bouts of continuous climbing in an ‘all-out’ manner.

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The results were then compared and contrasted to participants who ran through the same protocol using an exercise bike which has already been shown to improve fitness.

For the second experiment, participants vigorously climbed up and down one flight of stairs for periods of 60 seconds, an experiment which could be easily adopted for the home.

Both protocols, each involving a total time commitment of 30 minutes a week, increased cardiorespiratory fitness.

“Interval training offers a convenient way to fit exercise into your life, rather than having to structure your life around exercise,” concluded Gibala, who has studied high-intensity interval training for more than a decade and recently wrote a book on its efficacy entitled, “The One Minute Workout.”

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You should combine this exercise with a healthy, balanced diet to reap the longevity benefits.

“A low-fat, high-fibre diet is recommended, which should include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (five portions a day) and whole grains,” says the NHS.

You should limit the amount of salt you eat to no more than six grams (0.2oz) a day as too much salt will increase your blood pressure, a precursor to heart disease, warns the health site.

How does salt raise your blood pressure?

“Salt makes your body retain water. If you eat too much, the extra water stored in your body raises your blood pressure,” explains Blood Pressure UK.

You should also avoid food containing saturated fats, because these will increase the levels of “bad” cholesterol in your blood, notes the NHS.

Bad cholesterol, also known as LDL cholesterol is a fatty substance found in certain foods.

The substance can clog the arteries which transport blood to your heart so it is important to limit your intake and avoid these foods where possible.

Foods high in saturated fat include:

  • Meat pies
  • Sausages and fatty cuts of meat
  • Butter
  • Ghee – a type of butter often used in Indian cooking
  • Lard
  • Cream
  • Hard cheese
  • Cakes and biscuits
  • Foods that contain coconut or palm oil

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