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This Is The Best Exercise For Longevity, According To The Blue Zones Founder

Sarah Regan
Author:
January 2, 2023
Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Editor
By Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Editor
Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, and a registered yoga instructor. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.
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Image by Caleb Gaskins / Stocksy
January 2, 2023
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Longevity has become nothing short of a buzzword recently, as more and more people strive for well-being into their later years. And by now, we know that several studies have linked regular exercise—even in the form of small daily movements—to a longer life.

But is there a type of exercise that reigns supreme for promoting longevity and healthspan? To find out, we asked the founder of Blue Zones, and his answer might just surprise (and even relieve) you.

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What's really the best exercise for longevity?

According to New York Times bestselling author and expert in Blue Zones (places in the world with the longest-lived people) Dan Buettner, the very best exercise you can do to support longevity is none other than walking. (No kidding!)

As Buettner tells mbg, taking a brisk walk can offer you roughly 90% of the physical activity benefits of training for a marathon—at a fraction of the exertion and impact. And not only that, but you can take a daily walk for your entire life, he notes, adding that walking "engages well over 100 muscles and also improves cognitive functioning1."

Buettner has found that regular movement is embedded into the culture and lifestyle of Blue Zones, which likely plays a role in the number of centenarians in these places.

"The big epiphany of Blue Zones is they're moving every 20 minutes, but not because there's some regimen. Their environment is set up in such a way that they're nudged into movement," he previously explained on an episode of the mbg podcast.

Research supports the idea that doing micro-movements all throughout the day can build more longevity-supporting muscle mass than just hitting one tough gym session. Taking just a 10-minute stroll every day has been linked in research to increased longevity in people 85 and older.2

Walking also counts as zone 2 cardio, a training style where you keep your heart rate between 60 and 70% of your maximum heart rate3 for an extended period to build cardiovascular endurance. As certified personal trainer Jonathan Olonade, CPT, NCSF, previously told mbg, "Training in zone 2 and doing cardio consistently is reflective of longevity."

How to make the most of your walks.

Try earthing.

If you've never heard of earthing, it simply entails walking barefoot on the earth. That might sound hippie-dippie, but one study actually found earthing changes the electrical activity in the brain4, as measured by electroencephalograms, so the benefits go beyond just grounding to the earth.

Here's our guide to earthing to get started.

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Make sure you're walking correctly.

Not going the earthing route? You'll want to make sure you're supporting your daily walk with a good pair of supportive walking shoes.

In addition to that, Jonathan FitzGordan, a yoga teacher and creator of Core Walking, previously wrote for mbg that most people should focus on shortening their stride, leaning slightly forward, and alternating their arms and legs as they walk.

Here's more on improving your walking form, as well as foot posture, if you're curious.

Remember: A short walk is better than no walk.

Lastly, remember: Taking a quick walk is better not walking at all. Personal trainer Kris Goldman previously told mbg that if you're doing nothing else, you should try to walk at least 10 minutes per day. Here are her suggestions for squeezing in some movement daily:

  1. Go for a walk first thing in the morning—which will help you wake up, too.
  2. Make your meetings walking meetings instead of sitting meetings.
  3. Make a tradition of going on a lunchtime or after-dinner walk.
  4. Take public transportation or drive a few blocks away from your final destination and walk the final leg.
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The takeaway.

When it comes to longevity, there are a host of different things you can do to stay healthy as you age. And simply getting our steps in is one really effective way to help support a longer, healthier life. Yet another reason to lace up your sneakers and minimize your inactivity in the new year.

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Sarah Regan
Sarah Regan
mbg Spirituality & Relationships Editor

Sarah Regan is a Spirituality & Relationships Editor, a registered yoga instructor, and an avid astrologer and tarot reader. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from State University of New York at Oswego, and lives in Buffalo, New York.