This first roundup of 2020 highlights the simple habits that will increase your disease-free life expectancy, and the cold-hard truth about ice baths. You’ll also uncover how cardio fitness can lift your brain power, and find out how your gut microbiome affects your response to exercise.

How to lift your disease-free life expectancy by a decade

Researchers have spelt out five fundamental healthy living habits, advising that if you adopt at least four of them you can increase your disease-free life expectancy by up to ten years. The study, published in the British Medical Journal, considered data from 110,000 people and the following five healthy habits: 1) never smoking, 2) a healthy body mass index between 18-25, 3) moderate to vigorous exercise for 30 minutes a day, 4) moderate alcohol intake, and 5) a healthy diet. Researchers found that women who adopted four or five of the healthy habits had a life expectancy at 50 of 34.4 more years, taking them to the age of 84 without diabetes, cancer or heart disease. Women who didn’t follow the healthy habits had just 23.7 more years of disease-free life expectancy from 50. Men who adopted four or five of the healthy habits could expect to live beyond 50 free from disease for a further 31.1 years. If they didn’t follow the healthy habits this number dropped to just 23.5 years. Find out more about the healthy habits that lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Proof that the hype about ice baths is simply hot air

Cold water immersion has become a hot topic among elite athletes and hard-core exercisers, but now new research throws cold water on the idea of submerging yourself in a bath of ice. The Journal of Physiology study highlights how ice baths decrease the generation of protein in muscles and are therefore not helpful for repairing and building muscle over time. The researchers explain that using ice baths to recover from resistance exercise lowers the capacity of the muscle to use dietary protein-derived amino acids and it lowers myofibrillar protein synthesis rates. With this in mind, anyone keen on improving skeletal muscle conditioning should reconsider applying cooling as a part of their post-exercise recovery strategy. Learn more about how post-exercise cooling impairs muscle protein synthesis rates.

Cardio and cognitive fitness go hand-in-hand

Thanks to a new Mayo Clinic report we now have more evidence that boosting cardio fitness can improve cognitive function and lead to a longer, healthier life. After observing and assessing the health of 2,103 adults over a 15-year period, researchers at the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases saw how negative changes in cardiorespiratory function can lead to increased dementia risk. They also found that those who improved their cardio fitness over time were likely to add an additional 2.2 dementia-free years to their lifespan (and an extra 2.7 years of life in total). What’s more, the study’s MRI testing also showed positive links between cardio fitness and grey matter volume, which is critical for functions such as speech, memory and decision making. Find out more about how building cardio fitness can boost brain function.

Will regular exercise cut diabetes risk? It depends on your gut

As the prevalence of type 2 diabetes grows, exercise continues to be the favored strategy for diabetes prevention. But new research reveals the makeup of your gut microbiome can influence how well it works. Researchers recently studied how exercise affected the microbiome and metabolism of 39 men with high blood sugar levels (but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes). After 12 weeks of high-intensity exercise they all had similar levels of weight and fat-mass reduction, but just 70 percent saw improvements in glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity. Delving deeper, researchers found that those with the glucose and insulin benefits had microbiomes that generate more short-chain fatty acids and break down more branched-chain amino acids. The researchers then transplanted these participant’s faecal samples into obese mice, which then went on to develop better insulin resistance and glucose regulation. Find out more about how different gut microbiomes respond to exercise.