These Best Predictors for Longevity Might Surprise You

By Barbara Pierce

While genetics do play a role in determining your life expectancy, there are other factors within your control that can add years to your life.

There’s a large body of evidence indicating that things like a healthy diet, stress management and social connections increase your lifespan and contribute to a longer and healthier life.

However, researchers have recently identified specific predictors of longevity that are particularly important to keep track of and if needed, improve upon.

Longevity has two components. The first is how long you live. The second and equally important is how well you live, the quality of your years.

That’s the premise of “Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity,” by physician Peter Attia. “Outlive,” a bestseller since its release, offers solid advice on how to cut down how long you spend being frail and infirm as you age. You can have more of an impact on your longevity than you may think.

There’s one factor that stands above all the rest in its ability to increase a healthy lifespan. No, it’s not diet.

It’s exercise. Exercise is hands down the most effective tool to age well, said Attia.

The benefits are greater than the harm that smoking, overeating or loneliness does.

It’s about ensuring that, not only can we add years to our life, but life to our years. Not only can we live longer, but we can live better, healthier lives.

“It’s a matter of ‘surviving’ or ‘living,’” said Rachel Boice, physical therapist at Achievement Therapy and Wellness in Utica. “Do you want to just survive in your older years or do you want to live a full life without illnesses?”

Achievement Therapy and Wellness offers a wide array of therapy and wellness services in their multispecialty center.

“There’s quite a bit of new research out there showing the importance of strength, balance and muscle strength to leading a full life,” said Boice. “Plentiful research demonstrates the significance of improving in these areas.”

The most important predictors of longevity include, according to author Attia are:


Grip strength

Grip strength a measure of how much force you can generate with the muscles of your hands when they grip something. Grip is strongly correlated with measures of whole-body muscle strength. Grip strength declines with age; poor grip strength results in difficulty managing the tasks of everyday life. The stronger your grip, the longer you’re likely to live.


Wellness Coordinator of 50 Forward, Debby Zampardi.

People who failed a 10-second balance test of standing on one foot were nearly twice as likely to die in the next 10 years, research found. Balance is often overlooked as a pre-dictor of longevity — which is a shame, because it’s essen-tial to maintain mobility as you age and also to prevent falls.

Balance can be improved with regular training. For example, 50 Forward Mohawk Valley (previously known as the Parkway Center) offers a Matter of Balance class. 50 Forward Mohawk Valley provides programs and services to individuals older than 50, empowering them to live healthy and vibrant lives.

“In the balance class, we address concerns about falling through discussions and activities,” said the wellness coordinator of 50 Forward, Debby Zampardi. “We get people started doing low-level exercise to improve balance, flexibility and strength.


Muscle Mass

Loss of muscle mass is common when older people become less active. It’s associated with chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease and is linked to excess frailty, disability, and a higher risk of mortality. Maintaining a high degree of muscle mass through regular exercise is essential to maintain mobility, independence and overall health.


Muscular Power

Muscular strength can be considered the maximal amount of force that you can produce, while muscular power can be considered the ability to generate that force quickly.


Leg Strength

Like grip strength, leg strength is another known predictor of longevity that is particularly relevant as we get older. Strong leg muscles are essential to maintain mobility, balance and independence as we age.


Maximal Oxygen Uptake

VO2max is the single most powerful predictor of longevity. This evaluation of how well your body turns oxygen into energy, measures the aerobic capacity of your body. How well your body absorbs and uses oxygen as you exercise. The more oxygen you can use during high level exercise, the more energy you can produce.

The primary way VO2 max is measured is by hooking up a mask and a heart rate monitor while running on a treadmill or riding a bike. The mask is connected to a device that measures the volume of oxygen you inhale and the amount of air you exhale. The technician slowly increases the exercise intensity on the treadmill or bike until your oxygen consumption levels off. If you encounter a problem with your treadmill, get advanced treadmill maintenance services from an expert to fix it right away.

“Be active,” Boice said. “There are a lot of options. Just do it. If you don’t do anything else, at least walk. Just walk, even a short distance if that’s all you can do.”

Set yourself up for a longer, healthier and more fulfilling life.