(HealthDay News) – Leisure-time physical activity is associated with an increased life expectancy of up to 5.5 years, according to a study published online Dec. 11 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

To compare life expectancy for adults, Ian Janssen, PhD, from Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada, and colleagues utilized data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2007–2010), the National Health Interview Study mortality linkage (1990–2006), and U.S. Life Tables (2006). Participants were characterized as inactive (no moderate-to-vigorous physical activity); somewhat-active (some moderate-to-vigorous activity but <500 MET minutes/ week); and active (≥500 MET minutes/week of moderate-to-vigorous activity).

The researchers found that, at age 20, somewhat-active and active non-Hispanic white men had a life expectancy that was about 2.4 years longer than that for the inactive men. This advantage decreased to 1.2 years at age 80 years. In non-Hispanic white women, there was a similarly increased life expectancy among active people (3.0 years at age 20 years and 1.6 years at age 80 years). As many as 5.5 potential years of life were gained due to physical activity among non-Hispanic black women. Somewhat-active and active non-Hispanic black men also had significant increases in longevity.

“The current study shows that leisure-time physical activity has a meaningful association with longevity,” the authors write. “Although adhering to a physically active lifestyle over the life span is a substantial time investment, this is a sound investment that is likely more than compensated for by the years of life gained.”

Several authors disclosed financial ties to nonprofit, commercial, and government organizations, including some related to physical activity, nutrition, and health.

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