New study increases 'sweet spot' for exercise & life expectancy

New study increases 'sweet spot' for exercise & life expectancy
New study increases 'sweet spot' for exercise & life expectancy. (Source: WOIO)

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - We seem to hear every day about how important it is to be active, to get exercise. We also hear different theories on just how much is needed to really make a difference in our health and extend our lives.

Looks like finally there really is a so-called "sweet spot" when it comes to exercise.

Our gyms are busy places with people working and sweating and working and wondering how much is enough? And enough for what?

How about you forget the scale, the percentage fat, the waist circumference -- what about how much to add years to your life?!

One person said they aim for three to four times at the gym a week for a half hour or so; others say an hour a day, most days of the week!

When you ask Stephanie Nunn of Cleveland if she thinks her brisk walk on the treadmill will give her a few more year; a big smile comes across her face as she says, "Definitely do, definitely."

In fact, at 55 years old, a longer life is her biggest motivator to get to the gym on a regular basis, with bonus results she adds, "I think it's
a great help with your emotional well being as well as your physical well being."

Looks like she's on the right track to adding years to her life, according to an article recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association which breaks down a couple of the largest studies done on exercise and life longevity.

It's no surprise those who did no cardio, downright inactive, were most likely to die prematurely, according to the study.

Those who did cardio for the highly recommended 2 1/2 hours a week decreased their risk of early death by 31 percent. It boils down to at least 30 minutes five days a week.

Professionals we talked to agree that's about right.

"It's lowering your blood pressure, it's lowering your cholesterol numbers, it's improving your heart function,"  said Chris Travers, an exercise physiologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

Ruth Crespo, a personal trainer at Anytime Fitness adds, it's "the No. 1 thing that's going to increase your lifespan."

But wait, as much support as the 2 1/2 hours gets the thumbs up, according to the two studies referred to in JAMA, it's actually 7 1/2 hours a week of cardio that gets the "sweet spot" award for the maximum life extending benefit -- decreasing risk of early death by 37 percent.

It leaves even our pros saying, "What?"

"Too much of a hamper on your body as well, there's no chance for recovery or rest after," said Travers.

Crespo, shaking her head in disbelief says, "There is such a thing as overdoing it you know, overuse injuries and that kind of thing, too. So you really, you need your rest as well."

While they concede numbers don't lie, there's also the thought in this case that they're not telling the whole truth either as even some of the highest regarded health organizations like the American Heart Association, the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health, sticking to the original 2 and a half hour a week recommendation.

Too many people like Stephanie Nunn, that means sticking to keeping it real, "It's, it's a good feeling."

The experts also bring up the questions that go unanswered in the studies like if you spend all the time doing cardio, where do other things like strength training and agility come in, which make a huge difference when it comes to quality of life when you get older?

Another note about these studies; they show there is no point where too much exercise decreases longevity -- contrary to what some other recent studies indicate.

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