Participating in leisure time exercise can extend a person's life expectancy by up to 4.5 years, suggest researchers.
Based on pooled data from six cohort studies, Steven Moore (National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland, USA) and colleagues predict that even people who only participate in half the government recommended amount of exercise per week, equivalent to 32.5-75.0 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity, will extend their lives by 1.8 years.
Writing in PLoS Medicine, the team reports that although obesity was linked to a lower life expectancy in their analysis, physical exercise appeared to diminish the negative effects of overweight to a certain degree.
"Our findings highlight the important contribution that leisure-time physical activity in adulthood can make to longevity," said Moore in a press statement.
"Regular exercise extended the lives in every group that we examined in our study - normal weight, overweight, or obese."
Moore and team pooled data on 654,827 healthy adults aged 21 to 90 years to assess the impact of exercise on life expectancy.
The median follow-up period was 10 years, during which time 82,465 participants died.
Using direct adjusted survival curves, the researchers estimated that people who walked briskly, or the equivalent, for up to 75 minutes per week (0.10-3.74 metabolic equivalent hours/week [MET-h/wk]) gained 1.8 years in life expectancy compared with those who did not exercise.
People who carried out the recommended amount of exercise per week (150 min/week moderate- or 75 min/week vigorous-intensity exercise; 7.5 MET-h/wk) were estimated to gain 3.4 years of life and those who reported participating in twice this level of exercise gained 4.2 years on average.
The highest level of reported exercise, equivalent to 450 minutes of brisk walking per week or more, was associated with a gain of 4.5 years in life expectancy.
Gains in life expectancy were seen across all body mass index (BMI) groups, but the greatest gains were for people of normal weight (BMI 18.5-24.9 kg/m2) who participated in 7.5 MET-h/wk or more, who gained 7.2 years in life compared with those who were completely inactive.
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