4 key reasons why mobility and longevity are connected

TAlthough aerobic exercise and popular fitness indicators like balance and grip strength are regularly touted as essential to maintaining a long and healthy life, there is one often-overlooked metric that underscores all of the above: Mobility. If you don’t maintain your mobility, which simply refers to the ability of your joints to achieve their full range of motion, you’ll find it much more difficult to maintain a cardio or strength training regimen without injury, and reap the full physical health benefits in the same. Not to mention, maintaining your mobility as you age can also directly improve your mental and emotional health, contributing in many different ways to your overall longevity.

For years, science has shown that people who move regularly, taking about 7,000 to 8,000 steps a day (or the equivalent of 30 to 45 minutes of exercise), live longer than those who don’t, and that physical activity Inadequate can increase mortality. But recently, more evidence has accumulated to show how negatively it impacts being still can be, too.

“People are realizing that spending a lot of time inactive can almost cancel out the beneficial effect of getting some exercise.” —Joe Verghese, MD, neurologist

“The change from being mobile is to being sedentary, and now people are realizing that spending a lot of time inactive can almost cancel out the beneficial effect of getting some exercise,” says neurologist Joe Verghese, MD, chief of integrated divisions of Cognitive & Motor Aging at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

In fact, a recent study involving 3,700 people who wore activity monitors for a week found that those who exercised for 30 minutes a day and also sat for more than 10 to 12 hours had significantly worse measures of cardiometabolic health than those who similarly exercised for 30 minutes, but also stood or walked throughout the day, doing what the researchers called “light activity.” That is, maintaining your mobility throughout your life can increase longevity through two broad channels: the health benefits of being mobile and the health detriments of being mobile. No be okay, still.

Here, experts break down exactly how these connections work, especially as you age.

4 ways maintaining mobility can increase longevity

1. It allows you to be active *safely* (with a lower risk of falling)

Falls are the leading cause of death for people age 65 and older, and people who have mobility problems are at higher risk for falls. On the contrary, maintaining your mobility and the full range of motion that goes with it can make you a more effective navigator of uneven surfaces, doorways, and other common trip hazards. This, in turn, reduces the risk of falls and the kind of injury that could dramatically shorten your lifespan.

However, the deceptive paradox with fall prevention in older people is that if someone Already suffer from mobility problems or limitations, doing mobility exercises or simply being mobile in the form of walking could put them plus at risk of falling (than, say, sitting up in bed all day).

“Slow gait and shuffling steps [which are more common in the elderly and in folks with cognitive decline] they are, in fact, predictors of falls,” says Jeannette Mahoney, PhD, associate professor of neurology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “So if a person walks slowly or has an unsteady gait, telling them to walk more for mobility reasons could actually put them at increased risk of falls and mortality.” (This is why many hospitals actually immobilize older patients, despite the well-known harms of doing so.)

Reaping the longevity-enhancing benefits of mobility requires working before a physical limitation develops. Or, if you already have mobility problems, it could mean doing exercises like push-ups, squats, or just walking under the guidance of a medical professional or while using an assistive device, like a cane or walker, says Internal Medicine. physician Michael Roizen, MD, author of The reset of the Great Age. “No matter how old they are, however, people are able to increase his strength and, consequently, his mobility, which is something very valuable.”

Once you’re more mobile, you’ll be able to walk more (and more safely), which comes with a host of longevity-promoting benefits, from improving cardiovascular health to supporting metabolic activity and improving mood. And according to recent research, even a little walking can go a long way with age: A study that followed more than 7,000 people aged 85 and older for several years found that those who walked at least an hour a week (just 10 minutes a day, on average) had a 40 percent lower mortality risk than their inactive counterparts.

2. Helps prevent brittleness

Although characterized in different ways, the concept of frailty generally refers to an “accelerated decline in physiological reserve,” which is medical language for various body systems that become weak or dysfunctional, so that even an infection , fall or minor injury becomes difficult to recover from. “This often shows up in someone who walks slowly, loses muscle strength and becomes less active, and is associated with being more vulnerable to everyday stressors we find in our environment,” says Dr. Verghese. “You can build a buffer against frailty by being more mobile, as this helps maintain muscle strength.”

“You can build a buffer against brittleness by being more mobile.” -Dr. Verghese

Regular muscle activation also has downstream effects on a number of other body systems. “When you stress a muscle, it improves the function of the blood vessels so they dilate and contract better,” says Dr. Roizen. “That also allows your heart to respond more effectively to stressful events, which means you can better tolerate rapid heart rate whenever it occurs.”

Putting your muscles to work through their full range of motion can also increase lung capacity, improve blood flow to the brain, and support bone health, says Dr. Verghese. And all of the above strengthens the body against the kind of frailty metrics that are common with aging, thus increasing longevity.

3. Improves cognitive function

For years, researchers have been collecting evidence that aerobic exercise, even light to moderate physical activity, can reduce a person’s risk of cognitive decline and dementia, which in turn may help them live longer. And a recent study that followed nearly 80,000 participants in the UK Biobank for seven years found that these benefits extend even to walking: those who walked just under 10,000 steps a day reduced their risk of developing dementia by 50 percent. All of which makes yet another compelling argument for maintaining mobility, in this case as a way to protect the brain.

Much of this connection between mobility and cognition is likely related to the hippocampus, a brain region that is associated with memory and spatial navigation, and which has been shown to be smaller in people with slow gait Y cognitive impairment. On the other hand, walking and aerobic exercise can actually increase the size of the hippocampus, according to studies of people with multiple sclerosis and older people with mild cognitive impairment. As for how? That’s probably thanks to a particular hormone that’s released during exercise called irisin.

“When you stress a muscle, for example when you walk, you turn on a gene that makes irisin, which then moves across the blood-brain barrier and turns on another gene that makes brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), causing it to grow. the hippocampus, or the memory center of the brain,” says Dr. Roizen. The result is a unique benefit of brain support for moving your body that will also allow you to continue doing so for a longer time in life.

4. Increases the quality of life and relationships

When you’re more mobile, you’re more likely to get out of the house and not be homebound, says Dr. Mahoney, which can help emotional health.

Being able to walk freely not only ensures your independence and freedom, it also increases the likelihood that you will connect with your local community and maintain friendships and other social ties, all of which can help you retain a sense of purpose in life. life and increase your well-being. By contrast, a 2013 study of around 700 older adults found that those with poor mobility were significantly less likely to engage in social engagements than those with high mobility, putting them at greater risk of the depressive effects of social isolation than their mobile counterparts.

“The interconnection between being mobile, being independent, keeping your brain active, and meeting other people is what promotes a healthy lifestyle in old age,” says Dr. Mahoney. “And all of these facets play an important role in a person’s continued will to live, which is a critical factor in longevity.”

How to maintain your mobility as you age

In addition to regular walking, which Dr. Roizen says is one of the best mobility exercises, he recommends getting some combination of lunges, squats, and wall push-ups into your exercise routine. But even outside of regular workouts, there’s also a deceptively simple way to test your mobility every time you get up from a chair: Do it without using your hands or arms, he suggests, to seamlessly activate your key core and leg. . muscles.

To flex your body’s full range of motion in new ways, check out this 12-minute mobility workout:

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