This magic number can set you up for some seriously optimal aging
Selene Yeager – sourced (unedited) from http://www.bicycling.com and used without permission.
Want to double your odds of aging disease-free and fully functional? Get out and ride for 10 hours a week.
That’s the take-home message of a new study from the University of Sydney, which found that adults who got the most exercise—the equivalent of just over 10 hours of moderate cycling a week—enjoyed the greatest reduction in chronic disease and the highest odds of both optimal mental and physical health.
In the study, researchers at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research surveyed more than 1,500 healthy Australian adults over the age of 49 ,and followed them for 10 years. At the end of the decade, those who engaged in the highest amount of physical activity were twice as likely to avoid age-related ills like heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, and to be in optimal physical and mental shape, compared to their peers who got the least amount of exercise.
Specifically, those in the highest, optimum health category performed at least 5,000 metabolic equivalent minutes (MET minutes) of activity each week. Those in the lowest got less than 1,000 MET minutes a week.
For reference, MET is a measure of exercise intensity based on how much oxygen you use during any given activity. Moderate bicycling (about 12 to 13.9 mph) is an 8-MET activity, meaning it expends eight times the energy you’d use just sitting around. Each minute you ride at that level is a MET minute. To hit the 5,000 MET weekly threshold, you should aim to saddle up 625 minutes—or 10.4 hours—a week, or about an hour and a half a day.
Currently, the World Health Organization recommends at least 600 MET minutes of physical activity—which is about 75 minutes of riding—each week.
So if this study’s results sound like a whole lot more than the typical exercise recommendation you’re used to hearing, it is. But it also isn’t surprising when you consider that our bodies are meant to be in motion most of the day and how bad sitting all day is for our health.
The challenge is making it happen. An hour and a half a day can be impossible to squeeze in among work, kids, a commute, and all the other obligations of life. But it’s not as hard to hit that 5,000 MET number as you think if you get a little creative…and are willing to hammer a little harder when time is tight.
Shredding singletrack, hitting hills, and otherwise riding hard is a 14-MET activity. So it takes just 358 minutes—or 6 hours a week—to hit your 5000 minimum threshold. You can easily get half that amount on a spirited Saturday morning ride. So you can go longer and easier when time allows, and ramp up the intensity when it doesn’t.
We endorse riding, of course, but cross-training activities, like lifting weights, swimming, or running, also count too, and can help you reach that weekly MET goal.
Ride lots, ride hard, and enjoy riding well into your old age. Sounds like a recipe for a good life to us.