A large UK study indicates that middle-aged and older adults who begin exercising to meet the minimum recommended amount of physical activity can have a longer lifespan than those who remain inactive. This research is significant because it examines changes in exercise habits over time rather than just a single snapshot, providing a more dynamic view of the relationship between physical activity and health.
The study followed 14,599 individuals, aged 40 to 80, over an initial eight-year period to assess their activity levels, and then continued to track mortality rates for an additional 12.5 years. The findings revealed that increasing physical activity to at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly correlated with a 24% reduction in all-cause mortality, a 29% decrease in cardiovascular deaths, and an 11% reduction in cancer deaths.
Senior author Soren Brage emphasized that it’s never too late to start exercising, and benefits were observed regardless of past activity levels or other changing risk factors such as diet or medical history. The study also showed that even a shift from inactivity to low levels of activity could significantly reduce the risk of death, and higher levels of activity were associated with even greater benefits. At a population level, meeting the exercise recommendations could potentially prevent nearly half of the deaths related to physical inactivity.
While the study did not conclusively prove that increased exercise directly causes an extension in lifespan, it supports the idea that adopting an active lifestyle in mid-life can contribute to longevity. This aligns with other research findings that show starting exercise can improve various health markers such as blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and inflammation.
- Increasing physical activity in middle age or later can significantly reduce the risk of death, including deaths from cardiovascular disease and cancer.
- Even individuals who have been inactive for years can benefit from meeting the minimum exercise guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate activity per week.
- Shifting from a sedentary lifestyle to varying levels of physical activity can lead to a substantial decrease in mortality rates, regardless of past exercise habits or other health risk factors.
“The reduced risk of death linked to increasing activity was present regardless of past activity levels and improvements or even worsening of other risk factors such as diet, body weight, medical history, blood pressure and cholesterol levels over the years.”