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The Voice of the Black Community

Health

Moderate exercise can extend your life
Study finds benefits of physical activity
 
Published Wednesday, November 21, 2012 8:00 am
by Michaela L. Duckett

Leisure-time physical activity is associated with longer life expectancy, even at relatively low levels of activity and regardless of body weight, according to a new study.

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A litle moderate exercise can go a long way to prolonging a healthy life, according to researchers.


The study was conducted by a team of researchers led by the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institute of Health. The findings suggest that people who engage in leisure-time activities have life expectancy gains of as much as 4.5 years.


“Our findings highlight the important contribution that leisure time physical activity in adulthood can make to longevity,” said lead author Steven Moore Ph.D. of NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics.  “Regular exercise extended the lives in every group that we examined in our study – normal weight, overweight or obese.”


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the parent agency of the NIH, recommends that adults ages 18 to 64 engage in regular aerobic physical activity for 2.5 hours at moderate intensity – or 1.25 hours at vigorous intensity – each week.


Moderate activities are those during which a person could talk but not sing. Vigorous activities are those during which a person could say only a few words without stopping for breath.


In order to determine the number of years of life gained from leisure-time physical activity in adulthood, researchers examined data from more than 650,000 adults, mostly age 40 and older.


In general, more physical activity corresponded to longer life expectancy. After accounting for other factors that could affect life expectancy, researchers found that life expectancy was 3.4 years longer for people who reported they got the recommended level of physical activity.


People who reported leisure-time physical activity at twice the recommended level gained 4.2 years of life.

People who said they got half of the recommended amount of physical activity added 1.8 years to their life.

“We must not underestimate how important physical activity is for health – even modest amounts can add years to our life,” said I-Min Lee, M.D., and Sc.D., professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and senior author in the study.

The study also examined how life expectancy changed with the combination of both activity and obesity. Researchers found that obesity was associated with a shorter life expectancy, but physical activity helped to mitigate some of the harm.

People who were obese and inactive had a life expectancy that was between five to seven years shorter (depending on their level of obesity) than people who were normal weight and moderately active.

According to the study, the association between physical activity and life expectancy is similar between men and women and blacks gained more years of life expectancy than whites.
 

The relationship between life expectancy and physical activity was stronger among those with a history of cancer or heart disease than among people with no history of cancer or heart disease.


The study was published in the Nov. 6 issue of the journal PLoS Medicine.

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