Health span vs lifespan, what’s the difference? Lifespan is defined as the length of time a person is alive; comparatively, health span is generally defined as the length of time a person is alive and healthy and able to enjoy their normal day to day activities.
According to the CDC, the average lifespan for someone born in the late 2010’s is about 79 years old (CDC.gov). However, with the advancements in technology and healthcare, it’s not at all uncommon for people to live into their late 80s and early 90s these days. But how many of those years are people able to enjoy their normal day to day activities without health issues limiting them? At 80, are you going to be able to do the same type of activities that you do when you’re 50 or are you going to be severely limited because of diabetes, knee replacements, arthritis, or any of the other myriad of age-related health conditions? Do you really want to spend the last 15-20 years of your life being wheeled around in a wheelchair, or barely able to walk upstairs, play with grandkids, or be forced to go to the doctor’s office every couple of weeks for health treatments?
This is where health span comes into play. The best way to mitigate the risks associated with age related health decline like cancer, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive decline is to commit to living a healthy and active lifestyle, and it’s never too late to start. Leading an active, healthy lifestyle is proven to decrease heart disease up to 58% depending on the type and intensity of activity; furthermore, a study of 472 sedentary older men found that over a 5-year period, when these sedentary men committed to a more active and healthier lifestyle, their risk for early death decreased by 44% (PMID 16534088).
So, what exactly do you need to do to start living a healthier lifestyle? It’s fairly simple really. From a nutrition standpoint, focus on eating more whole foods and less of the highly processed foods. Trade out your morning bowl of cereal for some oatmeal, trade out the French fries for a sweet potato or side of steamed broccoli, trade out the fried chicken for grilled chicken. From an activity standpoint it’s even easier. If you’re a sedentary person now, start by walking an extra 30 minutes a day. Instead of finding that parking spot up close to the store, maybe park farther away and make yourself take those few extra steps. Once you are consistently walking an extra 30-45 minutes a day, start mixing in a few bodyweight exercises like air squats (do you realize how much you naturally squat every day, from getting in and out of a car to sitting on the toilet or couch)?
Simple choices made today can have a monumental impact on how healthy we are in the later stages of our life. Why wait until it’s too late? Make the choice to live a healthier and more active lifestyle today and BE CONSISTENT with that choice. Wake up every morning and choose to be healthier!