Do you want to live a longer, healthier life but hate the gym? Start by giving up the elevators! If you want to know the science behind this simple tip, keep reading.

Some regions of the world, known as “blue zones”, have a high percentage of their populations living to be over 100 years old. Although there are many factors that contribute to their longevity, including diet and genetics, one of the common habits of people who live in these places is that physical activity is part of their routine. Whether it’s farming, gardening or hiking, the physical activity, while vigorous, is not strenuous, nor is it limited to twice-weekly sessions in the gym.

A recent study by an international group led by scientists at the University of South Wales in Australia followed more than 25,000 people (average age 62) for about seven years. The participants used smart watches that recorded their activities. The study showed that small increases in physical activity during daily routines significantly extended the participants’ lifespan. Relatively modest, intermittent vigorous physical efforts (one to two minutes of brisk walking or climbing stairs) were associated with lower rates of all-cause mortality, including strokes and cancer. This lifestyle produced, in many cases, benefits similar to those experienced by people doing traditional exercise, which was already known to produce significant anti-aging benefits.

Carlos T Moraes and Sergio T Moraes

Not only do these findings help explain the observed longevity of the “blue zone” population, but they provide a blueprint for increasing healthy lifespan for all of us. However, for that to happen, we need to change the way we think about physical exertion. For thousands of years, humans have had to work hard to survive, and short periods of vigorous physical activity were not an option. Since the beginnings of feudal systems, and at a faster pace since the Industrial Revolution, vigorous intermittent physical activity has become the preserve of low-income people, while rest and inactivity reflect wealth and success. This perception is still very much alive today.

The daily routine of most western cities aims to reduce physical activity. Think moving walkways, escalators, elevators, work desks, and so on. A typical downtown office building has sophisticated and attractive elevator systems, which the public is always drawn to when entering the building. On the other hand, it is likely that you will have a hard time finding the stairs, because it is usually hidden. If you find it, it will be a very dark, dirty and unpleasant place. Of course, elevators play a crucial role in helping people with limited mobility, but for elevators that can move relatively well, they have to be more than an afterthought in place just because of fire laws.

Two fundamental changes are needed if we are to incorporate life-extending habits related to physical activity into our daily routine. First, we must all change our perception so that short, vigorous physical activity is seen as a positive thing. The benefits are clear. Based on the above study, if you were 60 years old, this lifestyle change would cut your chances of dying in the next seven years in half. Obviously, this is approximate, but not far. Each time you have to decide whether to take the stairs or the elevator, keep in mind that taking those three, four, or even eight flights of stairs, which will make your breathing faster and your heart rate quicker, will also give you a few extra days of rest. Healthy life. Contrast this healthy lifespan increase with the extra 30 seconds you might lose by not using the elevator. As a note of caution, it is important that you consider your general health and physical fitness (in consultation with your physician) to determine how to motivate yourself.

Second, those involved in building design and construction organization should provide ready opportunities for people to get their heart rate up for a few minutes. Studies conducted nearly 20 years ago have shown that simple design changes such as aesthetically pleasing stairs can lead to an increase in physical activity. A pleasant environment with attractive designs, increased display, abundant lights, and decorative walls may be enough to motivate more people to climb the stairs.

Many additional incentives can be put in place. Will a poster highlighting the benefits of climbing stairs influence your choices? What if your employer got health benefits (through an app), so that you get points every time you take the stairs? Will the “game-like” stimuli built into stair design entice you to climb? Architects and designers must consider these issues, focusing on the features that stimulate routine physical activity. In parallel, government officials should develop educational campaigns about the benefits of daily physical activity. Innovative environments will extend our health and longevity.

Carlos T. Moraes is Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Miami Miller College of Medicine, and Sergio T. Moraes is Professor of Architecture and Urbanism at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil.

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