Research Shows Exercise Can Help Girls Fight Off an Early Adult Death

The benefits of exercise are incontrovertible, but now new research shows that exercise during adolescence can in particular help young women stay cancer free.

The study, which was carried out by researchers at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, Tenn., and is published this month in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, used the extensive population data gathering tool the Shanghai Women’s Health Study (SWHS) to look at the relationship between women undertaking exercise in their teenage years and how likely they are to develop serious health problems in mid-to-later life like cancers, cardiovascular problems and more. 

The SWHS involved more than 74, 940 women who were all between the ages of 40-70 years-old during the data collection period between 1996-2000. During the data collection, respondents were asked via in-person interviews a variety of questions about their teenage and adult activities, including exercise, as well as their health history. The study controlled for things like social and economic factors, as well as lifestyle factors (for example, alcohol consumption).

The researchers in this latest study took that data and then looked at how many of those women died from cancer, cardiovascular disease and other common ailments.

The researchers found that respondents who said they did up to 80 minutes of exercise weekly when aged 16-19 appeared to have as much as a 16 percent lower risk of dying from cancer and a similar lower risk of dying from any other causes the study looked at, this compared to women who said they did not exercise at all. What’s interesting is the research appears to suggest that there is a cut-off point on how much exercise helps stave of mortality, because doing any more than 80 minutes of exercise a week didn’t appear to tally with longer life.

However, the research also pointed out that if the people who said they exercised in their teens also carried that on into their adult lives, their risk of dying during the study period was around 20 percent lower than those who had never regularly exercised.

The researchers recognize that this study’s chief weakness is that it relies on self-reported data. It also cannot control for all possible biasing factors, for example it didn’t control for the types of exercise, and so future research will need to be more sensitive to issues like this to really delve into what is happening here.

Nevertheless, the researchers believe this adds to a growing body of evidence that shows early-life exercise really can help us stay healthy for longer.

“The main finding is that exercise during adolescence is associated with a reduced risk of mortality, or death, in middle aged to older women,” Sarah J. Nechuta, an assistant professor of medicine at Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center, is quoted as saying.

As the researchers have also said, it might be that if a person begins exercising–as well as other healthy behaviors–during their adolescence, they are more likely to keep those up in adult life and thereby continue to get the health benefits. As such, getting young women to exercise seems to be key. Here are three tips to help the teenage girl in your life develop that exercising habit and stick to it:

  • Don’t limit girls by their gender: Encourage young women to participate in whatever sports peak their interest. There’s no such thing as a “boy’s game” or a “girl’s game” unless we make it that way, so if your teenage daughter, cousin or niece wants to try out for football or rugby and can find a team to match her skill level, encourage her to do so.
  • Educate young women out of exercise myths: Gyms are not male-only spots, and women who workout with weights don’t necessarily have to develop overly muscular frames, yet these are two common myths that sometimes put off women from exercising at gyms. In truth, gyms run many programs that can help young women enjoy working out, including fitness classes, personal training sessions designed to target areas that women commonly say they want to improve on, and more.
  • Lastly, it’s never too early to foster an exercise habit: If you have a young daughter and you want to ensure she is as healthy as possible, teaching her early on that exercise is a key component of staying healthy in adult life can be vital, so why not try fun activities to help her exercise and slowly transition them into sports as she gets older. If you have a daughter who is introverted and perhaps doesn’t like the idea of team sports, bike rides and teaching her how to jog can also be great exercise, and great fun.

Here are a few more ways to help encourage young people to exercise for little to no cost to you, and a great big benefit to kids of all ages.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.


Johnso R.
Past Member about a year ago

The stuff in this blog is in not only incredible but also providing the great knowledge to the people. 12 week mastery review

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey2 years ago

Wish I didn't have such a stubborn daughter!

Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran2 years ago


Fi T.
Past Member 2 years ago

Exercise for life

Paulinha Russell
Paulinha R2 years ago

Thank you

Kathryn Irby
Past Member 2 years ago

Research is a good thing, as is exercise! Thanks for sharing.

Shirley S.
Shirley S2 years ago

Exercise is good for the body & the mind.

Fred L.
Fred L2 years ago

@Ivana B.~~"If you exercise, you are likely to eat better as well, so of course there will be less cardiovascular problems." Yep, getting into the habit of taking care of yourself early in life will pay off in your later years.

Billie Sue B.
Billie Sue B2 years ago

For the price of a pair of jogging shoes ( about the price of a tire for a car) Go find out how many miles you get for your dollar. The high is worth the exercise.