Physical Activity Helps Increase Life Expectancy

A study led by a multi-national team including researchers from the Leicester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) who worked in close collaboration with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) sought to better understand the impact of physical activity on untimely early deaths.

The team of researchers concluded that regardless of the higher intensity levels of physical activity significantly reduces the risk of early death in middle-aged and older people. The researchers disclosed that being inactive increases the risk of death.

For instance, individuals sitting for 9.5 hours or more a day apart from their sleeping duration, develop a greater chance of early death.

The findings got published in the science journal BMJ today, under the title ‘Dose-response associations between accelerometry measured physical activity and sedentary time and all-cause mortality: a systematic review and harmonized meta-analysis’.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is recommended to individuals aged between 18 and 64 years of age to indulge themselves in vigorous physical activity for 75 minutes a day.

The minimum weekly threshold is 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity.

This recommendation is rough measure as it has been produced on the basis of self-reported activity. The factors of the level of activity and intensity required to protect human health are still uncertain and numerous.

The researchers conducted observational studies to determine physical activity and stationary time with death (“all-cause mortality”). The research team conducted the whole study under the stewardship of Professor Ulf Ekelund at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences in Oslo.

The investigators advised the participants to wear accelerometers and other gauging gadgets on a daily basis during walking hours to track the intensity of activity. The data from the various devices was then analyzed by the team.

Walking slowly or performing light-activity tasks such as cooking and washing dishes were categorized under low-intensity activity. Activities that increase the breathing rate such as brisk walking are examples of moderate-intensity activities.

Eight high-quality studies came up with significant outcomes, including one provided by the NIHR Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) East Midlands. The researchers analyzed data from about 36000 adults with an average age of 62 for the duration of almost 6 years. The study then categorized their activity levels from least to most active.

During the course of the research 2,149 (5.9 percent) participants passed away. The researchers concluded that physical activity aids in reducing the risk of death. The study also concluded that while moderate to high-activity is recommended even light-activity helped prolong the life expectancy.

A co-author of the study and a professor of physical activity and health at the University of Leicester, Professor Tom Yates said: “These results are fantastic. It has previously been widely assumed that more is better in terms of physical activity for health. However, this study suggests health may be optimized with just 24 minutes per day of brisk walking or other forms of moderate-intensity physical activity.”

“Another important finding was that spending 9.5 hours or more each day sedentary—which essentially means sitting was associated with a statistically significant increased risk of death, with each hour more above this threshold increasing the risk of death further. This highlights the importance of avoiding spending most of the day sitting, as well as undertaking purposeful physical activity.”

Unfortunately, the study has some limitations. For instance, the participants of all studies were from the US and Western Europe, so the conclusions drawn may not be applicable to people from different regions.

Moreover, as the study was conducted on people being at least 40 years old the findings may not be suitable for younger people.

Another co-author of the study and an associate professor in physical activity, sedentary behavior and health at the University of Leicester, Dr. Charlotte Edwardson, said: “These findings really reinforce the saying ‘Doing something is better than doing nothing’.

They show that physical activity of ANY intensity lowers the risk of death, so if you’re someone who doesn’t achieve the recommended levels of moderate-intensity physical activity, then doing more light activity, for example, pottering around more at work or at home and just generally being on your feet more, will still be beneficial.”

He elaborated; “Also, a large risk reduction was seen between the least and the second least active group suggesting that incorporating some time doing physical activity, light or moderate intensity, in daily life is associated with a big health benefit. For example, the difference between the least and second least active groups was about 60 minutes of light activity and 5 minutes of moderate activity.”

“Our results provide important data for informing public health recommendations, and suggest that the public health message might simply be “sit less, move more and more often”.”

The BMJ reported; “developing ways to limit sedentary time and increase activity at any level could considerably improve health and reduce mortality.”

It is safe to conclude that an active lifestyle not only helps with an overall improved quality of life and mood it can also increase the life expectancy. Because an active lifestyle can help keep numerous diseases at bay it can save thousands of dollars in healthcare. Surely its pros beat its cons by a long stretch.

Adeena Tariq

Adeena's professional life has been mostly in hospital management, while studying international business in college. Of course, she now covers topics for us in health.

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