Exercise Can Extend Your Life by as Much as Five Years

Release Date: December 11, 2012 | By Glenda Fauntleroy, Contributing Writer
Research Source: American Journal of Preventive Medicine

KEY POINTS

  • Adults who engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each week live longer than inactive adults.
  • Framing the benefits of exercise in terms of years of life gained may better motivate people than warnings about not exercising.
Follow us on Facebook

Adults who include at least 150 minutes of physical activity in their routines each week live longer than those who don’t, finds a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Promoting the years of life that can be gained from moderate activity may be a better motivator to get Americans moving, said study author Ian Janssen, Ph.D., of Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada.

Janssen and his team used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the National Health Interview Study mortality linkage, and U.S. Life Tables to estimate and compare the life expectancy at each age for adults who were inactive, somewhat-active and active. “Active” was defined as doing at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week.

They found that men at age 20 were estimated to gain as much as 2.4 years of life from moderate activity. Women at age 20 gained about 3 additional years from engaging in moderate activity.  The biggest benefit from physical activity was seen in non-Hispanic black women, who gained as many as 5.5 potential years of life.

Janssen hopes the positive message of the study can help health officials better relay the importance of exercise to the public.

“Research has shown that the health messages that have the greatest effect on changing people’s behaviors need to be easy to understand, specific to the individual, and be phrased in a gained-framed and positive manner,” he explained.

“The messages on longevity gains associated with physical activity that were developed in this paper meet all three of those characteristics,” Janssen added. “That is, people will understand what it means if you tell them they will live 2½ years longer if they become active.”

Sara Bleich, Ph.D., assistant professor of Health Policy at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said presenting the issue as “years of life gained” versus “years of life loss” raises the classic issue of the carrot or the stick, that is, when it comes to behavior change, do people prefer to be rewarded or penalized?

“For healthy behavior changes such as dieting or smoking, rewards have been shown to effectively motivate behavior change,” she continued. “From the current research, it is unclear whether rewards or penalties are more effective at motivating behavior change, but it is clear that rewards do work.”

TERMS OF USE: This story is protected by copyright. When reproducing any material, including interview excerpts, attribution to the Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health, is required. While the information provided in this news story is from the latest peer-reviewed research, it is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment recommendations. For medical questions or concerns, please consult a health care provider.

###

For More Information:

Reach the Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health, at hbns-editor@cfah.org or (202) 387-2829.

American Journal of Preventive Medicine: Contact the editorial office at (858) 534-9340 or eAJPM@ucsd.edu.

Janssen I, Carson V, Lee I-M, et al. Years of life gained due to leisure-time physical activity in the U.S. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. In Press, 2012.

Tags for this article:
Exercise/Physical Activity   Promote your Health   Lifestyle and Prevention  



Comments on this article
Please note: CFAH reserves the right to moderate all comments posted to the Health Behavior News Service. Any inappropriate postings will be removed.

Achim E. says
December 12, 2012 at 4:37 AM

What I am wondering about what happend if you change your livestyle later. May be in the 40´s or 50´s or even if your older. Has this the same effect?



Add Your Comment
Your name
Your Comment
Characters left:
Check the box to verify you are a human commenter.