Chapter 8 of The Longevity Project explores the relationship between physical activity and longevity. Interestingly, after being evaluated at age 11, the overall activity level of the Terman participants remained constant throughout their lives until a general decline around age 60. There were also immense individual differences in activity level, and overall, energetic children remained energetic and were happier throughout their lives while neurotic children were less physically active. As well, The Longevity Project suggests that the most important time of life to be active is middle age and that many sedentary individuals later became more active and have almost equal longevity as those who were active early in life. Finally, the chapter stresses the importance of recognizing individual differences in exercise needs and that exercise, a predictor of health, need not be an end in itself, as markers of a long life are often not cause of longevity. As a result, the authors advise the reader to dodoing activities he or she enjoys but not forcing themselves to do unpleasant exercise.
This chapter relates to me as I enjoy exercising and believe that if I continue to be active, it will contribute to my longevity. I take issue with the authors in this chapter; although I like running and working out when I am actually moving, I initially dread going to the gym, something I think most people experience. However, once a person develops a habit and becomes more in shape, exercising become more pleasurable, creating a cycle and allowing them to like working outmore. As a result, I find it misleading to suggest that a person should only do a type of activity if they enjoy it, as it often takes time to cultivate enjoyment of the activity. In addition, the chapter suggests that although exercise is an indicator of long life, it may not be a cause of longevity. However, the authors fail to address that while exercise itself may not cause long life, its results, such as less stress, greater self-esteem and group bonding may contribute to longevity.
Chapter 9 explores why married individuals live longer and circumstances in which marriage harms longevity. Firstly, the chapter describes the interesting finding that married men but not married women live longer than their counterparts. The authors then describe marriage findings in the Terman study by considering four categories; the “steadily single”, “steadily married”, “devorced” and “remarried”. Overall, steadily married Terman men lived longest, followed by single, then remarried and lastly, divorced men. In contrast, while steadily married Terman women lived longest, followed by divorced women, then single women, and then divorced and remarried women. As well, conscientious individuals are more likely to marry, and although married people tend to be happier than unmarried people, they were also happier before they get married, suggesting correlation but not causation. The chapter provides the intriguing finding that the husband’s marital happiness was the most important predictor of both spouse’s health and well-being, with the wife’s own happiness much less important to her health. The authors acknowledge that this may be a result of earlier times in which women were more affected by male hostility than vice versa. Finally, the chapter describes Dr. Terman’s finding that female sexual satisfaction was realted to longevity, possibly because sexual fulfillment is a sign and result of a happier marriage, or because people in fulfilling marriages tend to be healthier. Overall, the chapter concludes that seeing marriage as a key to longevity is an enormous oversimplification.
This chapter relates to me as I have always been skeptical of the idea that any marriage is beneficial to health and believe individuals should be cautious before committing to marriage. In my Child Development Psychology class, we are studying the effects of marital conflict on children and discovered it is generally better for children to have divorced parents than unhappily married parents, a finding that iss substantiated in The Longevity Project to be generalizable to spouses. As well, I think pressure to get married can cause people to make unwise choices, and appreciate the author’s warning that, particularly for women, no marriage is much better than an unhealthy one.