Researchers quantify the benefits of exercise

8 Nov

While it may be a no-brainer that regular physical activity can have many health benefits, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston have found out that even modest exercise can add 1.8 years of life expectancy over age 40.

“Modest exercise,” as defined in the study included activities such as 75 minutes of brisk walking per week.

“Physical activity above this minimal level was associated with additional gains in longevity. For example, walking briskly for at least 450 minutes a week was associated with a gain of 4.5 years,” said I-Min Lee, MD, associate epidemiologist in the Department of Preventive Medicine at BWH and senior author on this study. “Further, physical activity was associated with greater longevity among persons in all BMI groups: those normal weight, overweight, and obese.”

The researchers looked at data from 6 prospective cohort studies, analyzing data from more than 650,000 subjects. The subjects were followed over 10 years, and more than 82,000 deaths were analyzed.

“Results took into account differences in age, sex, marital status, education, alcohol, smoking, body weight, and health conditions betweeen active and inactive persons in statistical analysis,” Lee said.

Lee also said that common types of exercise conducted by the sample population included walking, hiking, jogging, cycling, swimming, aerobics/gym classes and gardening, among others.

While exercise is often used in weight loss, Lee said that this study proves it is beneficial even in overweight or obese people who may find it difficult to shed the pounds.

“What is encouraging is that our study shows that by being physically active, even overweight and obese persons can increase their life expectancy compared to someone their weight who is not active,” Lee said.

Dr. Steven C. Moore, PhD, research fellow at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and lead author of this study agreed.

“Our findings reinforce prevailing public health messages promoting both a physically active lifestyle and a normal body weight,” Moore said. “These findings may also help convince currently inactive persons that even being modestly active is ”worth it” for greater longevity, even if it may not result in weight control.”

Lee said a possible limitation in the study could be that since participants reported their own physical activity, the precision could have been compromised.

“The lack of precision generally means that true results are stronger than those observed.  We did not have data on diet for all subjects; only in some,” Lee said. “However, when we adjusted for differences in diet between those active and active for those whom such data were available, we continued to observe greater longevity among those active.”

Since the benefits of exercise are now evident in exact numbers, Lee encouraged doctors to get the word out to their patients.

“Doctors can make sure they talk to their patients about physical activity at every patient visit, just as they would about not smoking,” Lee said.

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2 Responses to “Researchers quantify the benefits of exercise”

  1. wartica November 8, 2012 at 8:51 pm #

    This just keeps proving the benefit to living a healthy and active lifestyle ; each time I train , I feel like a kid again :))

    • h2obsession November 8, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

      Thanks for the comment, Jon! And thanks for following my blog 🙂 I see you surf, so do I! This means we will live til a milllion years old 😉

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