Research News

Active adults live longer

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e7641 (Published 13 November 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7641

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A new study has confirmed that active people live substantially longer than inactive ones. Even moderate exercise, equivalent to 75 minutes of brisk walking each week, was associated with 1.8 (95% CI 1.6 to 2.0) extra years of life in pooled analyses from six prospective cohorts. Adults reporting twice as much exercise—the 150 minutes or more of brisk walking recommended by the World Health Organization—lived 3.4-4.5 years longer than adults who reported no exercise at all.

The authors adjusted their analyses for age, sex, education, some chronic diseases, and unhealthy lifestyles, including smoking and drinking. They did sensitivity analyses adjusted for diet. The associations between physical activity during leisure time and increased longevity persisted and were evident among normal weight, overweight, and obese adults.

A closer look at the combined contribution of body mass index and exercise suggested it might be better to be active and obese than to be inactive and normal weight. But people who were both inactive and obese died an estimated 7.2 (6.5 to 7.9) years earlier than those who were normal weight and reported doing the equivalent of at least 150 minutes of brisk walking each week.

The authors analysed data from 654 827 adults who were enrolled in cohort studies in the US and Sweden. More than 82 000 participants died during an average follow-up of 10 years. Cause and effect is impossible to establish in observational analyses, say the authors. But these associations are convincing, and they may persuade adults of all shapes and sizes that moving briskly for even a couple of hours a week is likely to be worth it in the long run.

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Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e7641