Exercising is a good idea if you want to live a long life. You know that. But have you wondered just how many years you might gain by heading out for a brisk walk?
A team of researchers from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the National Cancer Institute may have the answer. Their study, published in PLOS Medicine (2012; 9 (11); e1001335. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001335), quantified how much life adults gain by regularly engaging in certain levels of physical activity. The scientists pulled data from six studies that followed more than 650,000 people, aged 21–90, over an average of 10 years. “Our objective was to determine the years of life gained after age 40 associated with various levels of physical activity, both overall and according to body mass index (BMI) groups, in a large pooled analysis,” the authors explained.
Here are some highlights from the study:
- Low amounts of activity—such as 75 minutes of walking per week—resulted in a gain of 1.8 years of life, compared with no activity.
- At least 150 minutes of physical activity per week yielded 3.4–4.5 extra years of life.
- Being active in addition to having a normal weight was associated with an extra life expectancy of 7.2 years.
- Being inactive while having a normal weight was associated with 3.1 fewer years of life compared with being active and obese.
- An association between physical activity and life expectancy was evident among subjects at all levels of body mass index.
“These findings suggest that participation in leisure time physical activity, even below the recommended level, is associated with a reduced risk of mortality compared to participation in no leisure time physical activity,” reported the authors.
They added that this information could be used to encourage sedentary individuals to engage in at least minimal amounts of regular activity.