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How Much Exercise Do You Need to Improve Longevity? (Hint: It's Not As Much As You Think)

Find out how to create a fitness routine that can help add healthier years to your life.

By Emily LaurenceUpdated May 22, 2024


It’s a no-brainer that working out regularly supports overall health, but did you know it can literally add years to your life? It’s true. Scientific studies have shown that regularly engaging in physical activity can add up to seven years to your life—that’s pretty major!

If you want to live a long life where your body and mind are both functioning well and you have better quality of life (not just quantity of years), it’s helpful to know how exercise plays a role in that goal. Fortunately, it plays a pretty big one. If you’re curious about the connection between exercise and longevity, keep reading. It just might inspire you to make some changes to your own workout routine.

How Exercise Impacts Longevity

Longevity refers to living beyond the average age of death, which in the US, is 74.8 years for men, and 80.2 years for women. But there’s a difference between living into old age and living well in old age. This distinction is the difference between lifespan and healthspan. Lifespan is the total number of years an individual lives. Healthspan is the number of years lived disease-free. 

Unfortunately, the statistics surrounding healthspan in the US are not great, but the average healthspan is thought to be around 63 years. That means many people spend more than a decade of their life battling health issues—not exactly how anyone wants to spend their golden years.

When it comes to exercise and longevity, it can increase both healthspan and lifespan “[Exercising regularly] makes you function younger. It boosts both length of life and ability,” says Michael Roizen, MD, who is board-certified in anesthesiology and internal medicine, the Chief Wellness Officer at Cleveland Clinic, and author of RealAge: Are You As Young as You Can Be?

Peloton instructor Matt Wilpers says that habits that increase longevity go hand-in-hand with increasing healthspan, and exercise is one of them. He points to Peter Attia, MD’s book, OutLive: The Science of Art and Longevity, which says, " Not only do habitual runners and cyclists tend to live longer, but they stay in better health, with less morbidity from causes related to metabolic dysfunction."

The studies Dr. Attia refers to show that not only does exercise increase healthspan and lifespan—it does it by a lot. Backing up this claim, according to a research synthesis, regularly exercising lowers all-cause mortality by between 30 and 35 percent, compared to people who don’t exercise regularly. 

How Much Exercise You Need to Improve Longevity

So, how much exercise does it take to add years to your life? According to current research, experts recommend between two-and-a-half to five hours of moderate or vigorous exercise a week. Interestingly, more than 10 hours of moderate or vigorous exercise a week isn’t as effective, showing that too much of a good thing even applies to exercise.  

What Is the “Best” Exercise For Longevity? 

It’s clear that there’s a connection between exercise and longevity, but what type of exercises in particular are best?  “A good exercise routine usually includes mobility training, strength, and cardio work,” Matt says. That means if you want to craft your workout routine with longevity in mind, you have to mix it up. 

Matt says aerobic efficiency and maximum aerobic output (VO2 max) during cardio workouts are especially powerful longevity markers, as Dr. Attia discusses in his book. This means that boosting how much oxygen you use during a workout (that’s what VO2 max is) is a metric of your lifespan; increasing it could add years to your life. According to one scientific study, each unit increase of VO2 max was associated with a 45-day increase in longevity.

Bet you’re wondering how to increase your VO2 max now, right? One way is to increase your cardiovascular endurance. Working up to longer rides or runs, for example, is a great way to increase your VO2 max and, in turn, add years to your life. Dr. Roizen adds that cardiovascular exercises—including walking—have been repeatedly scientifically linked to longevity. So no matter what your cardio activity of choice is (swimming, running, cycling, rowing), you’re adding years to your life by making it a habit.

In addition to regular cardio workouts, Matt points out the importance of strength exercises. A review of studies in Missouri Medicine show that strength training regularly is associated with a decreased rate of all-cause mortality. The researchers from the study recommend aiming for 40-60 minutes of strength training a week. Strength training is also hugely important for bone health, so if you want to avoid joint pain or osteoporosis in your later years, it’s crucial to prioritize it.  

Mobility training helps the body move easier by increasing strength, flexibility, and balance. Yoga, Pilates, and tai chi are three types of exercise that incorporate mobility training.

How To Adopt a Mindset of Lifelong Fitness and Exercise

In all the studies mentioned about exercise and longevity, you might have noticed that they all reference exercising regularly. That means making it a habit. If exercise isn’t already part of your routine, it takes a mindset shift to make it happen. 

If you need some guidance for creating a routine that incorporates fitness, Matt recommends sticking to what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend: 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and two days of strength training. That said, he says it’s also important to be realistic about what will work for your schedule. “Work towards an exercise routine that you can consistently maintain,” Matt says. “What's most important is that you have a schedule you can consistently stick to. This is because no singular workout is going to ‘move the needle’ that much. It's the culmination of consistent work week over week that is going to make a difference.”

Dr. Roizen recommends aiming for at least 10,000 steps a day. “I do a minimum of 10,000 steps a day by walking while I’m on Zoom calls, and even when reading and writing by using a treadmill desk,” he says. He adds that the more ways you can find to incorporate movement into your day, the better. Over time, it will become second nature to park farther away at the grocery store, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or walk around the neighborhood when you have a scheduled phone call.

5 Great Exercises and Routines For Longevity—Even As You Age

By now you know that cardiovascular exercises, strength training, and mobility exercises are all important for longevity. But if you’re looking for specific workouts for longevity, look no further than this list. Rounded up here are the best types of exercise for longevity according to science.

1. HIIT workouts

High-intensity interval training is a great type of workout for longevity because it combines cardiovascular exercises, strength training, and mobility training all in one workout. One scientific study showed that four-minute bursts of intense exercise may increase longevity more than longer, moderate-intensity exercise can. 

Dr. Roizen recommends incorporating moves that involve jumping (like jump roping, box jumps, or jump squats) into your HIIT workout. “Jumping has been shown to help increase both muscle and bone mass,” he says.

2. Running 

Runners have a 25 to 40 percent reduced risk of premature death and live an average of three years longer than non-runners, according to a review of research on running and health outcomes. In terms of how many miles to aim for, research shows that there’s a sweet spot; aim for between five to six miles a week. Running more than 30 miles a week is linked to reducing longevity benefits.

3. Walking

If running is inaccessible to you, both Matt and Dr. Roizen say walking can still add years to your life. In fact, if you look to Blue Zones, which are regions in the world where people regularly live to be over 100 and in good health, walking is integrated throughout their day. This is a different mentality than in the US, where many people are sedentary the majority of the day and try to make up for it with an intense workout. Blue Zones show us that simply incorporating walking into your day can add years to your life.

4. Strength Training Workouts

Exercises that incorporate free weights, Pilates, and barre are all examples of strength training workouts, which as Matt explained, are tied to longevity. “Strength training helps strengthen our muscles and increase muscle mass, which helps support and protect the body,” he says. 

5. Yoga 

Yoga and tai chi are great forms of stability and mobility training that help you practice moving your entire body which in turn reduces risk of injury. Injury is what often prevents us from exercising and thus impacts longevity,” Matt says. These forms of mindful movement also help reduce stress, which can help the body age at a slower rate.

Exercise vs. Nutrition: The Role of Each in Longevity

Regular exercise is just one piece of the longevity puzzle. Nutrition is paramount too. Dr. Roizen says that making a change from an unhealthy diet to a healthy diet makes a massive difference when it comes to longevity. Studies show that this switch can add a full decade to one’s life.

There is some debate about what the absolute best way of eating is for longevity, but what doctors, longevity experts, and scientific researchers agree on is that a diet high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and primarily plant-based proteins wins out over one high in ultra-processed foods. These types of foods are known as longevity foods because they are associated with longer life and reduced mortality. 

How Peloton Can Help You Improve Your Health and Longevity

Peloton can support all the types of exercises connected to longevity—whether you choose to try the Peloton Bike, Peloton Tread, Peloton Row, or any of the classes available on the Peloton App. “Peloton offers content that covers all the bases of longevity exercise needs, but we also make it fun and engaging. Exercise types include yoga, strength, and various options for cardio including cycling, running and rowing,” Matt says. “Not only are Peloton workouts fun and effective but they are also convenient. From the hardware to the app, Peloton can be with you no matter where you go. This allows you to be more consistent with your training and thus achieve better results.”

When crafting your longevity workout routine, use the Peloton app to make it easier and more fun. Search for the type of workout you want to do (such as a 20-minute Run or 15-minute Yoga Flow) and get started. By prioritizing your workouts, you will be adding years to your life. That’s a pretty powerful motivator!  


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