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How to live longer: Do 150 minutes or more of exercise a week to add years to your life

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Exercise provides umpteen health benefits, many of which stem from tackling obesity. Obesity is a precursor to a host of chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. A growing body of literature focuses on the relationship between time spent exercising and longevity.

An influential study published in the journal PLOS Medicine found that longer periods of exercise were associated with longer life expectancy across a range of activity levels and body mass index (BMI) groups.

More specifically, 150 minutes or more of brisk walking per week extended the study participants’ lifespan by 3.4 to 4.5 years.

To gather their findings, the researchers pooled self-reported data on leisure time physical activities and BMIs from nearly 650,000 individuals over the age of 40 years enrolled in one Swedish and five US prospective cohort studies, most of which were investigating associations between lifestyle factors and disease risk.

The BMI is a measure that uses your height and weight to work out if your weight is healthy.

They used these and other data to calculate the gain in life expectancy associated with specific levels of physical activity.

A physical activity level equivalent to brisk walking for up to 75 minutes per week was associated with a gain of 1.8 years in life expectancy relative to no leisure time activity.

Being active—having a physical activity level at or above the World Health Organization-recommended minimum of 150 minutes of brisk walking per week—was associated with an overall gain of life expectancy of 3.4 to 4.5 years.

Gains in life expectancy were seen also for black individuals and former smokers, groups for whom relatively few data had been previously available.

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The physical activity and life expectancy association was also evident at all BMI levels.

Being active and normal weight was associated with a gain of 7.2 years of life compared to being inactive and obese (having a BMI of more than 35.0 kg).

However, being inactive but normal weight was associated with 3.1 fewer years of life compared to being active but obese.

“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,” the study researchers wrote.

As they pointed out, this result may help convince currently inactive people that a modest physical activity program may have health benefits, even if it does not result in weight loss.

The researchers continued: “The findings also suggest that physical activity at recommended levels or higher may increase longevity further, and that a lack of leisure time physical activity may markedly reduce life expectancy when combined with obesity.

“Although the accuracy and generalisability of these findings may be limited by certain aspects of the study’s design (for example, some study participants may have overestimated their leisure time physical activity), these findings reinforce the public health message that both a physically active lifestyle and a normal body weight are important for increasing longevity.”

According to the NHS, adults should do some type of physical activity every day. Any type of activity is good for you.

There are two main types of exercise and both bring different health benefits.

Moderate activity will raise your heart rate, and make you breathe faster and feel warmer.

Vigorous intensity activity makes you breathe hard and fast – if you’re working at this level, you will not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for breath.

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  • Posted on February 9, 2021