Walking, running, HIIT, yoga, biking…what’s the best type of exercise for longevity? You know you need to work out, but you want to maximize your efforts. I get it! You want the biggest bang for your buck. Let’s chat about movement because it really is a VITAL aspect in maintaining optimal health and promoting longevity. But is there a limit as to how much you should work out? Let’s find out.
Think about our ancestors for a moment. They were constantly doing some type of activity that involved heavy lifting while doing chores or gardening/fieldwork, etc. Nowadays, we lift our phones and laptops…
If you want to add years to your life, daily movement is key! I’m not saying you have to hit the gym every single day, but finding an activity that you LOVE and enjoy is how you’re going to easily incorporate movement into your everyday routine. In the end, the best exercise is going to be the one you can keep doing even at an old age. Activities that you LOVE doing are going to be the best for your health in the long run.
How many times have you challenged yourself to run 3 miles a day for it to only last 4 days before you call it quits? If you dread running, then of course it’s not going to be the best exercise for you because you aren’t going to stick with it. Picking a workout routine that is sustainable AND enjoyable is the best exercise for longevity FOR YOU!
But you also want to keep in mind that you don’t have to stick to the SAME exercise every single day. I actually advise against that. Switch it up so you are using different muscles, flexibility, and intensity. Each type of exercise brings on new benefits.
Movement even enhances brain health and cognition and helps to balance our stress response signals
Strength training is great for stable joints, injury prevention, and weight loss (all great for longevity!)
More is not always better. Some people think if they partake in high-intensity workouts for a long time, they will reap more benefits than if they just did a 15-minute session. However, you have to be careful. OVER-exercising is not beneficial to your health. In some instances, over-exercising (pushing your body to the max for extended periods of time) can cause more health problems. Especially for people who are under chronic stress or have adrenal issues, I strongly advise against high-intensity workouts or marathon training. The body could perceive that as stress, leading to further health issues with unbalanced cortisol, hormones, and blood sugar.
Extreme exercise can lead to mitochondrial functional impairment. In one study, participants who engaged in extreme exercise ended up having reduced mitochondrial respiration by an average of 40%, AND they had insulin resistance similar to a person developing diabetes!
However, don’t let this scare you or keep you from exercising! Normal, regular exercise is amazing for longevity because it helps keep your insulin levels stable and mitochondrial function optimal.
Too much high-intensity exercise can cause chronic low-grade inflammation, which is problematic since it can contribute to chronic health issues. But again, regular exercise is great for keeping inflammation in check. It’s exercising too much or too little can cause an increase in C-reactive protein- CRP (a marker for inflammation).
Remember, it’s ALL about balance!
If you are struggling with adrenal dysfunction, then working out intensely and putting MORE stress on your body is not going to be beneficial. You will feel even more exhausted, and losing weight will be even harder no matter how hard you try. People who have adrenal issues may want to focus on lighter exercises until they rebalance and support their hormones. It’s important to remember that the “right” exercise routine is going to vary from person to person, and that’s okay!
Another amazing health hack you can incorporate into your life is syncing your exercises with your menstrual cycle. Since your hormones fluctuate and energy levels go up and down depending on where you’re at in your cycle, one exercise may feel better (and be better) on your body than another.
Syncing your exercise with your cycle also keeps exercises interesting and exciting. You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) do the same cycling workout every day of the month.
Here’s what I mean when I say syncing with your cycle!
Follicular Phase: During this phase, your energy will start to climb because your estrogen levels are also rising. Now’s the time to get in your running and HIIT workouts! Use this energy surge to your advantage.
Ovulation: Your energy will peak around ovulation. HIIT, running, and weight lifting are ideal types of exercises for during ovulation.
Luteal Phase: Your estrogen will start to decline along with your energy levels. Now is a great time to schedule in some yoga sessions, go for a walk, or do a pilates sesh.
Menstruation: You’ll have the least amount of energy here, so if you don’t feel like exercising, that’s okay! Don’t push your body to exhaustion. You should take it easy during menstruation and allow your body to rest. Walking, yoga and pilates are great for this phase of your cycle.
With all of this being said, it’s important to listen to your body, first and foremost! For some people, chasing their kids at the park, lifting their baby all day and going on evening walks may be their best exercise. For others, it may be attending two hot yoga classes and doing a pilates class each week.
It’s a lot easier to bail on a workout session when you’re alone. It’s another thing if you have plans with a friend to go to yoga or to play tennis. You’re a lot less likely to cancel when your workouts involve a friend! Plus, working out with a friend will add some connection and laughter to your day – both of which are great for longevity and optimal well-being!
Why not listen to your favorite podcast while taking a fast stroll or going for a jog? It’ll make the workout go faster and help your mind get off the big hill you’re about to climb! Here’s one you might like where I talk to the founders and friends of Branch Basics.
You don’t have to find your ULTIMATE exercise/workout. You can enjoy several different exercises throughout the month. Maybe you want to take up a yoga membership this month and then a cycling membership the next. You can totally do that!
This is super important, I think a lot of people trying to get healthy or n shape don’t listen to their bodies as much as they should. If you are feeling “blah” or if you are feeling a sickness come on, maybe keep your exercise light for the day or forego it altogether and do a bath instead. You don’t want to overwork your body if it’s trying to fight off an infection or trying to recover from a stressful or busy week. Even a light stretching session and an evening walk would be better than a 4-mile run that day.
And vice versa. If you’re on your period but are feeling motivated to do a long run or HIIT workout, go for it! The most important thing is to listen to your body.
There are simple swaps and things you can incorporate into your daily routine to enhance your health and lead to a life of longevity and happiness!
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