COLUMBIA - A new study published by Public Library of Science in November, found exercise can extend a person's life expectancy by 3.4 years. Past studies conducted on exercise looked into how it correlates to living a longer life, but this is one of the first studies to assign an actual number to potential life extension.
The 3.4 years life expectancy increase is an estimate that refers to people who exercise for 150 minutes per week, doing moderate to low impact activities. "That's what's recommended by the World Health Organization, and what has been used in a lot of studies, that specific cut off of 150 minutes," said University of Missouri Physician Sarah Swofford. "So we know from other research studies that have been done that if you exercise 150 minutes a week, of just moderate activity like walking, that helps prevent diabetes, and lowers the risk of heart disease."
Researchers with The National Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, and other organizations looked at self reported data on physical activity and BMIs or body mass index, from 650,000 individuals over the age of 40. The study also analyzed 6 other studies which lead to the conclusion. The study stated that even if a person's BMI were considered unhealthy, moderate exercise would still have the same effect on extending ones life expectancy.
67-year-old Columbia resident Marin Blevins began exercising when he was 7-years-old. Although there were times he was less active, for the past several years he has exercised regularly. "I try to exercise at least 5 days a week, sometimes when I'm really energetic 6 days a week," said Blevins.
After going through several bouts of cancer, Blevins has continued to exercise and attributes part of his recovery to being active. "If you have something traumatic happen to you, for example cancer, it is very hard to come back from it. If you're in pretty good shape it makes it a little bit easier," said Blevins.
However, another study conducted earlier this year came to the opposite conclusion of the National Cancer Institute study.
Researcher Claude Bouchard found exercise isn't good for everyone. In a research paper, Bouchard stated exercise could be harmful for those at risk for heart disease. Bouchard's paper mentioned after studying 1,687 people, 10% got worse in areas related to heart disease.
Swofford said regardless of a person's age or health, even a small amount of exercise can have a big impact.
Click here for more information on the National Cancer Institute's study.
Click here for more information on Bouchard's research paper.