Ever wondered how long you might live? We’ve all pondered that question, and of course, there’s no definitive way to learn the answer. According to research, however, you can learn a lot about how much longer you are likely to live by simply testing yourself on certain simple tasks—such as timing how long it takes to walk around the block…how long you’re able to balance on one leg…how easily you can rise from a chair…and whether you’re able to twist the lid off a sealed jar.
Too simple, you say? Actually, this study shows that the ability to easily accomplish these everyday tasks as you get older correlates with longevity. The meta-analysis (a review of 33 previous studies) was conducted at the Medical Research Council Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing and Division of Population Health at University College in London.
Led by epidemiologist Rachel Cooper, PhD, researchers sifted through data on thousands of men and women (average age 60) whose physical abilities had been tested in myriad ways over several decades. Certain results stood out. For instance, researchers learned that, on average, people with longer life spans consistently had comparatively stronger grips, walked faster, had little difficulty balancing on one leg and could rise quickly from a sitting position.
These results makes you wonder whether it makes sense to do exercises that specifically improve your skill at these tasks. How much improvement would be necessary to extend life by five more years? Ten? What’s the highest age at which exercise is likely to help—40, 50, 70 years old?
Alas, there are no specific answers but future research will most likely address these issues and others. Meanwhile, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to do some exercises with these goals in mind—and it might do lots of good. Asked what type of exercise was best, Dr. Cooper said that it makes sense to aim at improving the three traits that the study showed are linked to longevity—strength, coordination and balance.