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U.S. study quantifies the effects of exercise on life expectancy

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November 19, 2012

US researchers have quantified how much longer people live when they are physically active...

US researchers have quantified how much longer people live when they are physically active (Photo: Shutterstock)

The benefits of regular exercise are well known, but what exactly are you getting in return for your efforts? A research a collaboration between the U.S.-based Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the National Cancer Institute has attempted to answer this question by quantifying how much longer people live depending on the levels of exercise they engage in.

The study analyzed data from more than 650,000 subjects and followed them for an average of 10 years, analyzing more than 82,000 deaths. From this data the researchers estimated lifespan gains for people over 40 who adopt different levels of physical activity and with varying body mass index (BMI) profiles (a calculation based on a person's weight and height).

To sum it up, the more you do it, the longer you live. For example, 75 minutes of brisk walking per week equates to an extra 1.8 years of life expectancy as opposed to staying sedentary. Increase that to 150–299 minutes of brisk walking per week and the gain in life expectancy goes up to 3.4 years. Make it 450 minutes per week and the estimated life expectancy jumps by 4.5 years.

The study also found that people whose weight is above the recommended level still benefit from physical activity .

Men, women, normal weight and overweight people – all benefit from exercise in terms of longevity according to the study. However, it also indicated that the best results were obtained by those with normal weight who exercise. These people added 7.2 years to their life expectancy compared to people with a BMI of 35 or more (normal BMI ranges between 18.5 and 24.9) who undertook no exercise in their free time.

The research was published earlier this month in PLOS Medicine.

Source: Harvard Gazette

About the Author
Antonio Pasolini Brazilian-Italian Antonio Pasolini graduated in journalism in Brazil before heading out to London for an MA in film and television studies. He fell in love with the city and spent 13 years there as a film reviewer before settling back in Brazil. Antonio's passion for green issues - and the outdoors - eventually got the best of him and since 2007 he's been writing about alternative energy, sustainability and new technology.   All articles by Antonio Pasolini
10 Comments

Funny story....

Has anyone done the maths...

I read years ago that the time spent exercising is approx equal to the time gained... So if you like the exercise then it is good to do, if not no need to bother......

I just ran the numbers..

For all of the categories, the benefit gained, diminished per hour of exercise the more which was done the less additional was gained......

The net gain, for the low and high exercise bands was about 1.3 years once the time spent exercising was subtracted... (using 75min.wk = 1.8 years, and 300 min/wk = 3.4 years gained.... )

Moral to the story is to stay active....

Another study reported that patients in aged care, don't die if they can walk faster than (I forget the rate) 1 km/hr or something..... That's because the grim reaper shuffles even slower..

Don't take it too seriously..

MD
19th November, 2012 @ 11:06 pm PST

Re MD's calculations:

Are these based this upon "total time" or "awake time". Exercise clearly "subtracts" from awake time whereas you gain total = awake + sleep time. Should the sleep time be included as gain? Also there's the preparation & recovery time if it's dedicated exercise. So until someone invents a way of exercising in your sleep perhaps we should just concentrate on saying you live a better, healthier life which is definitely no shorter - unless someone runs over you whilst you're exercising - a category surely excluded from the statistical data!

vbillc
20th November, 2012 @ 01:35 am PST

Agreed with MDs last statement. I thought the point was to live stronger, not longer. I love bouncing up 3 flights of stairs while everybody else waits in the queue to get onto the escalator. I think it's a shame that nobody else sees the stairs as free exercise (old and young alike).

jonoxn
20th November, 2012 @ 03:00 am PST

The numbers given are all about age at death,

not about length of satisfying life.

With sports, the body lasts longer.

With thoughts, the mind lasts longer.

I hope my body dies first.

Geometeer
20th November, 2012 @ 03:22 am PST

Whenever you can, don’t park your car so close to your destination. Also, if hills are stopping you from riding a bike for exercise, you might want to consider an electric bike. Most people only use the motor on the hills and turn it off on the flat. You’ll get all the exercise you want…… when you want it.

Hybrid Cycles
20th November, 2012 @ 08:51 am PST

Agree, quality is as important as quantity. With advances in telomere therapy we will be able to out run cancer and other critical illnesses. We may, however, still eat ourselves into an early grave.

No matter how long we have on the planet, in general, I'd much rather feel fit and alert than sluggish and bad tempered so, I'll take the fitness route but without the tofu, thanks.

Mirmillion
20th November, 2012 @ 12:29 pm PST

There is also the issue of quality of life. If you spend the last 10 years struggling for breath on an oxygen machine, then that doesn't constitute a win for the good guys. If your mobility is so poor you can't haave fun with your grandkids it doesn't much matter if you go on another five years. The other aspect is the useful social contact associated with many physical activities. I hate to miss my moring cycle not only because I need the exercise, but also because I enjoy the company of my riding buddies. It is worth something apart from a shot or two of coffee; or maybe not.

teamelephant
20th November, 2012 @ 04:17 pm PST

Sounds like it is similar to a retirement fund. You give up a little each week now so you get it all back at the end.

Give up 1 hour a day to do exercise now and you get it back at the end of your life. If it were something other than exercise like sitting in a special room listening to your favourite music watching relaxing images on a screen I think almost everyone would do that. Why is it then when you say exercise that people shy away? Maybe sit in a relaxing room, listening to music while on a stationary bike? There is such popular distaste for exercise that I don't think people stop and consider all the options.

Scion
20th November, 2012 @ 09:45 pm PST

Who the hell wants to add an extra few years of misery to the end of your lives? If im old and wasting away then I would prefer death. Basically, why would you want to live to 100 or more if your body and mind is just plain useless.

Now what I do value about exercise is that I can live in the NOW. I am healthier, stronger and active. I don't care that I will live longer for it, I enjoy the immediate benefits from it instead.

Pointless research.

cm
21st November, 2012 @ 01:03 pm PST

I could be wrong, but it seems there are a few people with the peculiar notion that living longer means living a worse life. Wouldn't the extra years gained from exercise mean extra good years? The reason you live longer with exercise is because your body and mind work better for longer.

What gives anyone the impression that exercise somehow leads to an extra 10 years of low quality of life rather than the reverse? I can assure you that if you don't look after yourself in both mind and body you will have a bad life more or less the entire time. Exercise and eat right and your life will be good for a much greater time.

That's logical isn't it?

PS: by exercise and eat right I don't mean exercise to the point of failure or eating "right" to the point of malnutrition. I mean actually looking after yourself in a very real and helpful way.

Scion
21st November, 2012 @ 06:55 pm PST
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