"Our findings highlight the important contribution that leisure-time physical activity in adulthood can make to longevity," said study author Steven Moore, Ph.D., of NCI's Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, and lead author of the study. "Regular exercise extended the lives in every group that we examined in our studynormal weight, overweight, or obese."
The researchers found that the association between physical activity and life expectancy was 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 researchers also examined how life expectancy changed with the combination of both activity and obesity. 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.
Physical activity has been shown to help maintain a healthy body weight, maintain healthy bones, muscles and joints, promote psychological well-being, and reduce the risk of certain diseases, including some cancers.
"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., Sc.D., professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Mass., and senior author on the study.
|Contact: NCI Press Office|
NIH/National Cancer Institute