Even fairly low levels of physical activity can translate into longer life expectancy, says a new study from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Using data from more than 650,000 people, mostly over age 40, researchers found that people who participated in leisure-time physical activity added as much as 4.5 years to their lives.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advises adults between the ages of 18 and 64 to take part in
- 2.5 hours of moderate intensity aerobic activities (those in which you can talk, but not sing)
- 1.25 hours of vigorous intensity aerobics (those in which your can only speak a few words without stopping to catch your breath) each week
Adjusting for other things that affect life expectancy, researchers found that lifespan was lengthened by 3.4 years in those who got the recommended amount of exercise, and 4.2 years in those who doubled the recommended level.
Researchers found that even low levels of activity provided longevity benefits. People who got only half the recommended amount of exercise had an increased lifespan of 1.8 years.
Results between men and women were similar, and blacks added more years to their lives than whites. The link between exercise and lifespan was stronger in those who had a history of heart disease or cancer. On average, people who are both obese and inactive have a shorter lifespan by about five to seven years when compared to moderately active people of normal weight. However, engaging in even moderate physical activity showed improved results.
“Our findings highlight the important contribution that leisure-time physical activity in adulthood can make to longevity,” said study author Steven Moore, Ph.D., of NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, and lead author of the study. “Regular exercise extended the lives in every group that we examined in our study — normal weight, overweight, or obese.”
The study was led by researchers at the NCI, part of the National Institutes of Health, and was published in PLoS Medicine. The researchers concluded that, “More leisure time physical activity was associated with longer life expectancy across a range of activity levels and BMI groups.”
Yet another reason to get out there and take a walk.