Yesterday, I wrote a piece about a recent paper that found that runners had a higher survival rate and a lower rate of disability as they aged compared to non-runners. While I had a few problems with the study in the end I agreed with the authors conclusions (mainly a problem of running long term longitudinal studies).
But I want to go back to one important point:
How much did they exercise:
In 1984 the completers in the runners group were running 4 hours per week, while the community control group averaged 25 minutes (not yet separated into ever-runners and never runners), but the total aerobic exercise for the two groups were: 5 hrs and 7 min. versus 1 hour and 40 minutes. If we break them into ever-runners and never runners: running 3 hrs 21 min. vs 0 hours 2 min. and for total aerobic exercise: 4 hrs 32 min. vs 1 hr 7 min.
Now if you look at 21 years later (2005) (so talking about average age of 78-81) the ever-runner group was down to running only 1 hr 1 min per week while the never-runners was at 0, and for total aerobic exercise the ever-runners were at 4 hrs 29 min, and the never-runners at 1 hr and 27 min.
Basically, the running groups performed 3-4 more times aerobic exercise per week compared to the non-runners. Simplifying things, the runner group was doing 4 hours of aerobic exercise while control were getting 1 hour per week. What appeared to happen was as the running group aged they switched from running to other forms of aerobic exercise, but despite being in their 70s still put in 4.5 hours of aerobic exercise each week (they stayed very active).
Now it is easy to take in the hours of exercise abstractly 4.5 to 5 hours of weekly exercise. But in reality us humans think mostly at the daily level. So what does 4.5 hours of exercise mean? It equates to 45 minutes of exercise 6 days a week.
Now this is just one way to break it down, of course you could run 30 minutes a day 3 times a week then on the weekend go for a longer run of 3 hours (marathon training). You can obviously combine different types of exercises. But still 45 minutes a day, 6 days a week gives you a pretty good idea of the dedication involved. And this is the average for all year. Now many of you during the summer may reach these goals when you add up the weekend hikes, those family bike rides etc. But the problem is many of you have a fair bit of drop off when the bad weather comes. You figure that you are still getting plenty of exercise but I suggest you track it and see if it adds up to 4.5 hours per week and averaged over the complete year.
If you want to increase your chance of surviving to an older age and have reduced disability so you can continue to enjoy life make sure you get plenty of vigorous exercise.
45 minutes a day of vigorous exercise 6 days a week should be your goal 52 weeks a year (or at least average this).
Break it up over the week any way you see fit in whatever form of exercises you like – but make sure you do it.