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A raft of recent research is reinforcing the long-held notion that even a little exercise can go a long way in extending our lifespans. Consider these notable stats.

  1. About 110,000 deaths could be prevented each year if middle-aged and older U.S. adults spent as little as 10 minutes more per day engaging in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, according to Pedro Saint-Maurice, PhD, and his team, who tracked data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. “These findings support implementing evidence-based strategies to improve physical activity for adults and potentially reduce deaths in the United States,” Saint-Maurice writes in the March 2022 issue of JAMA.
  2. Lack of physical activity was responsible for 8.3 percent of all deaths among U.S. adults 25 and older between 1990 and 2011, a 2018 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found. Among those 40 to 69 years old, that portion rose to nearly 10 percent.
  3. People who exercised for 150 minutes per week were 25 percent less likely to die during a nearly 23-year period compared with their inactive peers, a 2015 British study discovered. “If everyone adhered to recommended or even low activity levels,” the authors noted in the European Journal of Epidemiology, “a substantial proportion of premature mortality might be avoided.”
  4. A mere 20 minutes of daily exercise significantly lowers the risk of heart disease, concluded a study involv­ing about 3,000 Italian seniors that was published in the March 2022 issue of the journal Heart. Even those who waited until age 70 to ramp up their physical activity realized long-term cardiovascular benefits.
  5. It’s never too late to start moving your body, according to a meta-analysis presented at the 2021 European Society of Cardiology Congress. Researchers examined the activity levels of almost 34,000 people — average age 62.5 — over a period of about seven years. Formerly inactive participants who ramped up their exercise routines enjoyed a 45 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality compared with those who remained sedentary.

That’s an encouraging outcome, given that longtime exercisers who maintained their regimen during the study period enjoyed a 50 percent lower risk.

Among those diagnosed with heart disease, researchers reported similar results. Dedicated exercisers were 51 percent less likely than their inactive counterparts to die from the disease; late bloomers had a 27 percent lower risk.

“The results show that continuing an active lifestyle over the years is associated with the greatest longevity,” notes lead study author Nathalia Gonzalez, MD. “However, patients with heart disease can overcome prior years of inactivity and obtain survival benefits by taking up exercise later in life.”

No matter your age, the evidence linking exercise of any sort with a longer, healthier life continues to mount.

This article originally appeared as “The Life-Enhancing Potential of Exercise” in the October 2022 issue of Experience Life.

Craig Cox
Craig Cox

Craig Cox is an Experience Life deputy editor who explores the joys and challenges of healthy aging.

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  1. Great article Craig! We are constantly trying to get this out to our communities across Alabama. If we have learned anything over the past couple of years, we know that exercise is vital to living life to the fullest. We run school and community fitness events as well as Alabama Senior Olympics for 50yrs and older, we get stories all of the time about seniors taking up a sport for the first time in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and even 80s, and how it has added years and energy to their life. Keep up the great work!

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