Want to add years to your life? Exercise

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It turns out that exercise literally adds years to your life — who knew?

Sometimes we feel like we blindly follow recommendations for what is deemed “good for us.” It’s like we complete specific tasks but have our doubts as to its true effects. How many years can you add to your life by exercising?

This study published by PLOS Medicine and IDEA Health and Fitness Association managed to quantify how much life adults gain by regularly engaging in certain levels of physical activity. The scientists pulled data from six studies that followed more than 650,000 people, aged 21–90, over an average of 10 years. “Our objective was to determine the years of life gained after age 40 associated with various levels of physical activity, both overall and according to body mass index (BMI) groups, in a large pooled analysis,” according to the study

Here are some highlights:

Low amounts of activity—such as 75 minutes of walking per week—resulted in a gain of 1.8 years of life, compared with no activity.

At least 150 minutes of physical activity per week yielded 3.4–4.5 extra years of life.

Being active in addition to having a normal weight was associated with an extra life expectancy of 7.2 years.

Being inactive while having a normal weight was associated with 3.1 fewer years of life compared with being active and obese.

An association between physical activity and life expectancy was evident among subjects at all levels of body mass index.

When it’s put like that it is difficult to ignore that inner struggle to exercise or not. Going for an evening walk after dinner can literally add years to your life. To get started head to the Y for options and recommendations for all fitness levels and abilities.

What are some other ways to add years to your life? Smoking cessation is another way. If you are a smoker there are some surprising statistics related to life expectancy and smoking cessation.

An article published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institute of Health concluded the following, “Life expectancy among smokers who quit at age 35 exceeded that of continuing smokers by 6.9 to 8.5 years for men and 6.1 to 7.7 years for women. Smokers who quit at younger ages realized greater life extensions. However, even those who quit much later in life gained some benefits: among smokers who quit at age 65 years, men gained 1.4 to 2.0 years of life, and women gained 2.7 to 3.7 years.”

Conclusions: “Stopping smoking as early as possible is important, but cessation at any age provides meaningful life extensions. (Am J Public Health. 2002;92:990–996)”

For information on smoking cessation visit www.wallawalla.va.gov/news/QuitSmoking.asp

Alyssa Latham is Health Seekers program director at the Walla Walla YMCA. She can be reached at alatham@wwymca.org .

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