The researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the National Health Interview Study mortality linkage, and U.S. Life Tables to estimate and compare the life expectancy at each age for adults who were inactive, somewhat-active and active. “Active” was defined as doing at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week.
According to the study, Women at age 20 gained about 3 additional years from engaging in moderate activity, while men at age 20 were estimated to gain as much as 2.4 years of life from moderate activity. The biggest benefit from physical activity was seen in non-Hispanic black women, who gained as many as 5.5 potential years of life.
Promoting the years of life that can be gained from moderate activity, rather than warnings about not exercising may be a better motivator to get Americans moving, said study author Ian Janssen, Ph.D., of Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada.
Janssen hopes the positive message of the study can help health officials better relay the importance of exercise to the public.
“Research has shown that the health messages that have the greatest effect on changing people’s behaviors need to be easy to understand, specific to the individual, and be phrased in a gained-framed and positive manner,” he explained.
“The messages on longevity gains associated with physical activity that were developed in this paper meet all three of those characteristics,” Janssen added. “That is, people will understand what it means if you tell them they will live 2½ years longer if they become active.”
Health Behavior News Service
American Journal of Preventive Medicine: Janssen I, Carson V, Lee I-M, et al. Years of life gained due to leisure-time physical activity in the U.S.A