It’s not just about living longer

We should be focusing on expanding our healthspan

Published by Catrin Thomas on Feb 17, 2022

In a recent AgeUK interview, Andrew Steele, discussing his new book, Ageless: The New Science of Getting Older Without Getting old said, “There are dozens and dozens of ways to not only extend the lifespan, but extend the healthspan too, so people could stay healthier for longer.” So, it was interesting to read this week of a study conducted by researchers at the University of Padua in Italy that found that a daily 20-minute regimen of exercise can improve our healthspan and reduce our risk of contracting heart disease.

In fact, the 20-year study of more than 3,000 people over the age of 65, showed that 20 minutes of daily exercise reduced cardiovascular diseases in the over 65s, with the greatest impact being seen in those aged 70-75. That said, the research does suggest that starting this regimen early on in later life could well be the most beneficial. What it clearly demonstrated was that it was never too late to start exercising and this was supported by the University of Trieste who in the same journal, Heart, said it is “better late than never, but better early than late.”

Andrew Steele reinforced this by saying that when researching for his book he had seen studies “in which 90-somethings were given exercise programmes, and their health improved dramatically.”

The positive news is that people are certainly living longer. So, given that, in the UK, over the coming few decades there will be a significant reduction in the proportion of people of working age, we may well see policymakers raise the pensionable age yet further. This could come on top of a fall in the real value of pensions with more people over 65 in work as a necessity rather than choice. All of which means we are going to want our longer lives to coincide with improved healthspans. It is this latter point that is going to have to be society’s key focus over the coming years. Policymakers are going to have to grapple with how to incentivise people of all ages to become healthier and incentivise older age work. Not to do so will have not just a personal cost but also place strain on an already stretched health and social care system.

Whilst there are and will continue to be huge improvements in technology, especially surrounding medical advances and assisted living we are still, on a personal level, going to have to be mindful of and take responsibility for living healthy lives whether that be diet, sleep, getting our flu jabs and if the science is anything to go by our annual Covid booster, drinking in moderation and exercising our mind and bodies.

So, let’s all be bold and kickstart our 20 minutes today.