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How much exercise to live long and be healthy?

by (568) Updated April 27, 2014 at 5:26 AM Created September 24, 2013 at 3:43 PM

Not much feedback last time I asked so I'll simplify things.

Let's say you don't need to lose weight and are only slightly interested in gaining muscle mass, but are a little obsessed with avoiding the diseases of aging and mental degradation. You want to keep your body operating really well for a whole lifetime. Exercise seems important, but certainly not crossfit 8 days a week. Just how much do you need? What kind of exercise is most conducive to longevity, brain health, and general well being?

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880 · September 27, 2013 at 1:39 PM

Honestly, if you want the best exercise routine to keep you from getting those diseases, you need to find the one that doesn't feel like exercise. I think it's important to separate the ideas of exercise and play; they both involve physical exertion, but you do them for different reasons. You exercise to train yourself for something, to reach some goal; it's for the future. You play to have fun in the moment. Training is excellent and will let you do things you didn't think were possible, but if you don't have a goal other than "be as healthy as I can be," having a positive attitude about exercise and not forcing yourself to go out and exercise in the name of health will do so much more for you, because it's much more sustainable. TL;DR: Find pickup sports games or a type of exercise you don't have to force yourself to do.

11011 · April 27, 2014 at 5:26 AM

No more than 16 hours for sure!

Medium avatar
60 · April 26, 2014 at 1:08 PM

People who have moderate-intensity exercise daily with average time of 15 minutes lives on an average of 3 years longer than those who were inactive. This is considered true for both men and women. Consistent exercise helps a lot. Concentrating on Physical activities is also important because physical activity has been proven beneficial to overall health.

0 · April 26, 2014 at 5:53 AM

let me tell you about the incredible story as to why there are some people who probably are not well suited to running, but why most homo sapiens sapiens (us) are stellar endurance runners. anyone who says that running is bad for your joints, or that running isn't healthy, have most certainly never heard of or simply do not understand the detailed history of human evolution. around 6-7 MYA, the climate began to dry out in africa due to a large tectonic plate (india) pushing up against asia, forming the Himalayan mountain chain. the mountains were formed for much longer than this, but they began reaching heights that were beginning to affect the weather patterns around them. the Himalayas blocked the moist wind from asia from reaching africa and dumping its precipitation. meanwhile, chimp-like primates roamed the jungles and forests of africa. they had fingers on their feet and hands for climbing and living in the trees. they were extremely dependent on their forested environments. as the forests and jungles began to dry up, due to the Himalayas slowly forming, the habitats changed slowly over millennia. those chimp like primates were hobbling along on all fours, trying to scrape out a living. they were jungle survivors, not arid land joggers. food became more and more scarce, and they began to scavenge and their diet changed slowly. they had less access to fruit and vegetation due to the drying out of their home. they had no choice but to survive, or perish. large herbivores roamed the grasslands of africa, and as the chimps turned to other food sources, namely, protein and animal fat, they had to compete with terrifying predators. the chimps were absolutely no match for lions, tigers, and other carnivores that existed then but do not now, or have evolved into other life forms. the chimps would make daring outings into the savanna, hunting for meat and dead animal carcasses and bone marrow, which is high in precious calories and fat. (we love fat so much because it holds more calories per piece than any other natural food source. ancestors who had a taste for fat ate more of it, and prospered due to its calorie-giving properties.) many were not so lucky, but many survived these outings. soon, there was no choice, as in many regions, the forests had either completely dried up or were incredibly sparse and no protection from the powerful sun. The chimps were slowly weaned off of a forest lifestyle. as the chimps began to change their food source to survive, they got better at finding dead meat, and working together, they became survivors. in order to cope with longer distances they were forced to travel, the chimps with slightly longer legs did a little better and could cover more ground more efficiently. they passed on their genes and so on. soon the chimps had inherited many useful traits for surviving in this new environment, from those predecessors who were able to make it. millions of years passed. the climate was now arid, and large herbivores were an excellent source of food. the chimps had changed drastically, due to being put through this evolutionary gauntlet of late. they now had much less hair in order to cope with the heat, since hair traps moisture and keeps the water on your skin from evaporating and therefore cooling your body. they had inherited sweat, although certainly not as good at sweating as you or me, they nevertheless could sweat. as mentioned, sweat cools your body only when it evaporates. sweat could not evaporate when the chimps had body hair. so they lost their hair. they had longer legs due to the advantage of locomotion long legs offered. long legs give you the ability to step less often but cover more ground. their arms shortened, since long arms weren't really beneficial to them in their new environment and awkward while running. they became good at finding dead prey, and occasionally walking after prey for long periods in hopes of it dying so that they could eat it. homo Erectus was now existent. the chimps didn't much look like chimps anymore. their skin was now darker due to the intense uv radiation that certainly would have hindered and damaged any chimps with lighter skin( thats why africans are black, hint hint). they had an adopted taste for meat and fat and they traversed somewhat lengthy distances in order to find this food, all the while eating any sort of vegetation they could find to fuel them while they pursued their main source of nourishment, meat. (this is why we need such varied diets, because hunter-gatherers ate everything and anything they could find due to their scavenging lifestyle, and an omnivores diet was a huge advantage in finding food to survive.

time passed, and about 1 million years ago, homo Erectus had become so good at finding meat, that they didn't just find it on dead carcasses, they were tracking the animals, imagining themselves in the animals shoes to see where it had gone, and when they deduced through spatial and hunting skills, they followed the animal and they would jog after it until it would ………COLLAPSE AND DIE. …. did he just say… collapse and die? yes, i did. you may ask: well how the heck did ancient chimp critters in africa chase down a freaking wildebeest? (clears throat) let me explain my friends, because now we're getting to the juicy part.

we loved meat not only for its calories but also for its fuel for our brains which we used more and more, since a large brain offered a supreme advantage in tracking and finding meat, which then was used as raw proteins and fuel for your growing brain! a cycle! meat was the fuel that helped our brains grow. vegetables didn't cut it, you need meat to have a healthy brain developed and to have the raw protein and calories needed to develop huge brains. homo Erectus got so good at tracking these animals and imagining being in their shoes that they could chase them down and kill it. how? Tools werent invented until much later! well, humans are bipedal, and we can breath as many times as we want per minute to fuel our muscles and lungs, and our body naturally produces sweat which is an extremely effective cooling system. We can just keep going, and going, and going. but for poor old billy the wildebeest, he doest sweat, well, he does, but only a tiny bit, and when he runs, due to his four legs and his gallop, he is unable to breath well when he gallops. and he relies completely on breathing to cool himself. as billy the wildebeest overheats due to a poor heating system, he tries to stop and find shade and escape that dreadful hairless chimp bulbous head creature. he is terrified. a predator that is so slow and squishy and weak, but overtime he tries to escape the bulbous head creature is just…. there. every time the wildebeest thinks he's gotten away, he looks off in the distance and sees a strange stick figure slowly advancing. he cant escape. after several hours of galloping. poor billy is done, a wasted heap of fresh meat. he lays in the sun, unable to breath, dying of heat stroke. that dreaded slimy bulbous head chimp is here, he's walking up to me, IDGAF, I'm dying of heatstroke, this is the end. the bulbous headed slimy skin chimp picks up a rock or some object and crashes it against billy;s poor head. he is dead. looks like there's fresh burgers on the menu tonight.

the point is: all humans descend from these dark-skinned, bulbous headed slimy skinny ape creatures. every single man woman and child on this planet. they dominated. they spread out, leaving africa 1 million years ago and settling all parts of the world, although some not until much later. over the next million years, subsequent waves of humans left africa, over thousands of years traveling to new lands for the novelty, the food, the experience, for survival. now here is the question… how the crap did these humans get around? DRUM ROLL PLEASE……………………………………………… ………… …… …. . .. . feet.

we didn't have shoes. we didn't have moccasins. we didn't have nike freaking frees nor adidas trail blazers nor won ton jack slinging 2 inch thick running shoes. nope. we didn't. we just had feet. your foot is a marvel of natural selection. its arch is what transfers the energy of the initial impact when your foot hits the ground into forward motion. chimpanzees do not have an achilles tendon. but we do. a fully strengthened Achilles is capable of withstanding up to 2 tons of force before snapping. thats right people, you have a built in rubber band on the back of your heel. your hand fingers AKA toes, well, we don't use those for climbing trees anymore, but short toes are GREAT for gripping the ground and stiffening the said arch as a lever and propelling you towards your next billy the wildebeest, or in most cases now, your next McDonald's. ( o wait, we have SUVs) your spine is S-shaped which allows it to absorb up and down force. barefoot running forces you to run on your mid-foot , not your heel,(come on, would you pound down on your heels down the street barefoot? That would hurt!). you may ask, “but we have modern roads that are hard and paved, we cant go barefoot now.”this is where i get a sardonic look on my face and explain that the biomechanics of barefoot running make it so that it does NOT MATTER how hard or soft the surface is you are running on. your legs bend in an S shape at the joints and absorb the impact through your calf muscles, and your arches, and your quads, hams, and butt. chimps don't have butts cuz they don't rely on long distance running. we have huge butts because they are the anchor for endurance running. Running with thick shoes forces you to land on your heel, which has zero impact absorption and jars your entire leg and back and knee. If you dont use thick hoes, you’ll be running till your 105. Maybe not 105, maybe just 100.

there are endless body parts that are testament to our evolutionary history of running long distances to catch billy the wildebeest.

-nuchal ligament in your neck for stabilization while running, most animals don't have it strong and thick like us

-splayed feet and short stubby toes


-big bulbous butts

-sparse hair

-foot arches

-achilles tendons

it goes on and on. then you may ask: well i tried barefoot running and my feet hurt so i quit." i say: your poor feet have been in dark sweaty casts your whole life and you expect them not to be sore? work into it , slowly.

the other thing: many people have "deformed" feet, due to abusing them via shoe wear and socks for years and years. these poor people probably cant embrace the endurance running history of our forefathers, and to them i say: i'm terribly sorry. get surgery, and thank nike for doing it to you.

then you might say: well i have flat feet… and i say, yes you do, and because humans have embraced farming and agriculture and a sedentary lifestyle, there are people now who can survive with being born flat footed, so they pass on their genes and now there are quite a few flat footed people. the arch is key in long distance billy hunting. BUT, even people with flat feet or low arches can get stronger arches by running barefoot. your arch WILL get stronger and higher with barefoot use.

and now ladies and gentlemen, i hope there weren't too many TL,DRs on here,(too long, didn't read)

i hope you all remember what you learned, because most of the current population on earth has NO IDEA about their evolutionary past.

you ALL have inherited paleolithic bodies as well as brains. we were good at living like we did for millions of years. now in society things are much different and people wonder why there are so many problems.(ha-ha)


THE REASON YOU SHOULD START RUNNING IS NOT ONLY FOR EXTRAORDINARY HEALTH BENEFITS (google them) BUT FOR THE RUNNERS HIGH!!!!!! the runners high is something all humans get when running several hours at a time or even less. opioids (think heroin, morphine, OPIATES!!!!)in your brain are released in a flood and make you happy, pain free, relaxed, and in love with life and with others. your life will improve dramatically. exercise is OUR EVOLUTIONARY HERITAGE. DO IT.

and now, here is the SOLE footage of an african tribesman, hunting billy. poor billy. the footage is beautiful. ironically, he is wearing shoes that some westerner thought to magnanimously bestow upon him. Enjoy


182 · September 27, 2013 at 1:56 PM

I saw a show with a lot of old people in their late 80's, all in amazing health, one guy was 88 and ran sprinting competitively and lifts weight 2 days a week. Another guy claimed he done no exercise, but that he dieted. The guy that claimed he dieted (specifics not explained) had a very good sense of humour, seemed very switched on (no zoning out like old people sometimes do), he even jokingly hit on some 70yo woman in the audience. The other guy, athlete guy, was judgemental towards non lifters and clearly had a petty ridden view of non exercisers (who's to say that's not justified, lol) but he also seemed to be of excellent mental health. The dieting guy claimed he felt 70 since close to 20 years ago and he attributed his longevity and what I perceived to be extremely well functioning cognitive ability to dieting, humour and positivity. Just my detailed observation on a real life situation. Peace out homies.

26354 · September 25, 2013 at 1:31 PM

the research is pretty clear, some is better than none, more is better than some. So long as you are eating appropriately, and staggering workouts to allow for recovery, I have never seen a study that show the tip. Some have shown asymptotic relationships when you focus on one type of workout (i.e. just running, just weights). But nothing, other than self-diagnosed "chronic" inflammation, has shown a reduced return.

665 · September 25, 2013 at 4:40 AM

Surprisingly little.

For me enough movement to cover ~4 miles / 10,000 steps per day. Down in the 2,000 to 4,000 not enough to "work the system".

Doesn't have to be all one activity but cumulative.... walking, dance, tai chi, yoga. J For muscle & bone ....some weight bearing work... I prefer gardening / yard work. Quit my gym membership & furloughed my gardener.... years ago.

If you're a guy & you've ever had a decent amount of muscle, I believe there is another kind of "muscle memory... my body remembers having built muscle before and even at my age seems to respond very quickly to demand by adding muscle easily.

Jogging is a bad idea except for the knee & hip replacement industry.

Crossfit, great if you want to test your limits but not for the long haul. :)

Edited to add response to @Methodician inquiry

Based on all the mistakes I've made & injuries I suffered and the positive results I seen yoga yield for a number of people....

I would recommend yoga.

I've done VERY little but my wife has done tons... she belongs to studio. The positive benefits for her are remarkable.

wrt to using information from older people w/ experience....

Don't forget my experience is my very own n=1 experiment. What has worked or works for me may or may not work for you.

And I do experiment on myself quite a bit...I try things & take a look at the results. I recommend you do it as well but keep a log of some sort, most people's memory's are not great for experimental data.

I experimented with Shangri La Diet, Blood Sugar Solution, 4 Hour Body, Primal Blueprint & finally landed on paleo. They worked for me. IMO they inhabit somewhat overlapping "nutritional space".

I like Mark Sisson's approach to exercise.

Yeah, when I was in my teens & early 20's, I did the 2 to 5 mile runs before practice, 2+ hours of practice and then weight training 3x per week.

When I was in my 30 & 40's I did the multiple workouts per week...cardio then weights but it was a LOT of work and took a TON of time and a very expensive gym membership.

This was pre-internet so the tons of information now available was either not yet known or very hard to find.

In Aug '12, I was ~220 & 6' by Jan I was down to 197 and I had dropped 3" on my true waist using techniques from the various sources listed above. My most rapid fat loss & strength gains were using 4 Hour Body tips & tricks but that was before I heard about LeanGains. I've learned a lot in the last year. If I had it to do over again I might take a different route but a 190 & 6' with BF % ~14% to 18% I'm not willing to work harder or inconvenience myself further... what? to drop another few % of BF? Add 10+ lbs of muscle? Get back my college 33" waist? No, I don't think so. :)

Long winded answer to a simple question... I turned 60 this summer and I'm in better shape than most guys 20 years younger.

Best advice: Eat clean. Exercise just enough to reach your desired goals. Better is the enemy of good enough. READ but read using critical thinking skills. Use the 80/20 principle. Check out LeanGains.

If you really want to geek out

cheers & good luck


Medium avatar
10077 · September 25, 2013 at 2:05 AM

All you have to do is avoid mechanized transportation. Lift when you have to, and stay out of cars, buses, trains and planes. Learn to live local without the mechanical crutches.

225 · September 25, 2013 at 1:04 AM

pretty sure bodybuilding is not conducive with living long, ive seen people say that limiting calories and slowing down cell division = good for long life... if you want to follow that ideology i would assume the amount eat and exercise is as little as possible.

962 · September 24, 2013 at 9:21 PM

Whatever you do, do it outside. Pumping iron in a gym can not be as good as doing some heavy garden chore.

384 · September 24, 2013 at 6:14 PM

Enough so that your body feels exerted.

Not to the point where your body feels exhausted.

Find a balance that works for you, take into account your age, general activity throughout the week, type of workout etc. I'd advise against long distance chronic cardio but maybe that's just me. Lift heavy 3 times a week even if you just want to maintain muscle. Keep it simple and have fun :)

Anywhere between 1 to 4 hours a week seems reasonable to me.

Take old school but still relevant advice from a man that still excercised daily well into his 90s:

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