Researchers at the Westmead Institute for Medical Research have found that high levels of physical activity may add as many as ten years to a person’s life.
The investigation was focused on more than 1,500 Australian adults over the age of 50 who were followed over a 10-year period.
The researchers used data from the Blue Mountains Eye Study. Beginning in 1992, this massive study began measuring diet and lifestyle factors against a range of chronic diseases.
Participants who exercised the most were twice as likely to avoid heart disease, cancer, angina, diabetes, and stroke by the end of the study period. In addition, these individuals were found to have better mental health compared to those who exercised less.
Bamini Gopinath is an associate professor at the University of Sydney and the study’s lead author. Professor Gopinath said the data showed that adults who did more than 5,000 metabolic equivalent minutes (MET minutes) each week experienced the biggest reduction of chronic disease risk.
“Essentially we found that older adults who did the most exercise were twice as likely to be disease-free and fully functional,” said Professor Gopinath.
“Our study showed that high levels of physical activity increase the likelihood of surviving an extra 10 years free from chronic diseases, mental impairment and disability.”
The World Health Organization recommends at minimum of 600 MET minutes of exercise per week, which is the equivalent of 150 minutes of brisk walking or 75 minutes of running.
“With aging demographics in most countries, a major challenge is how to increase the quality and years of healthy life,” said Professor Gopinath.
“Our findings suggest that physical activity levels need to be several times higher than what the World Health Organization currently recommends to significantly reduce the risk of chronic disease.”
“Some older adults may not be able to engage in vigorous activity or high levels of physical activity.”
“But we encourage older adults who are inactive to do some physical activity, and those who currently only engage in moderate exercise to incorporate more vigorous activity where possible.”
The research is published in the journal Scientific Reports.
By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer