November 20, 2012
Is exercise worth it?

Don’t feel like exercising?  Is it worth your time to create a sweaty shirt with 30 minutes of exercise?  About 3.5 extra years of life, on average - and about 4.2 additional years for those willing to step up the intensity or put in closer to an hour a day of brisk walking or its equivalent, according to a new study.

Even for the obese - those with a body mass index above 35 - exercising for about 2.5 hours a week at moderate intensity or for 75 minutes at vigorous levels puts average life expectancy a notch above that of a normal-weight person who is sedentary, the research shows.

It's no surprise that exercise is good for you and will help you live longer. But the study published last week by the journal PLoS Medicine sounds a loud wake-up call to healthy-weight couch potatoes who believe their good BMIs will ensure them a long life.
Even for people with a BMI between 20 and 25, those who told researchers they were physically inactive were far more likely to die in the next decade or so than were overweight or obese exercisers. Among the study participants over the age of 40, the sedentary were almost twice as likely to die during the course of the study as were participants who were highly active.

"This finding may convince currently inactive persons that a modest level of physical activity is 'worth it' for health benefits, even if it may not result in weight control," the study authors wrote.

The results also offer clear evidence that exercise can offset some of the longevity loss that comes with past or continued tobacco use or a history of cancer or heart disease. Among those groups, getting even a modest amount of physical activity restored between 2.5 years (for current smokers) and 5.3 years (for cancer patients) of lost life expectancy. And getting more - or more vigorous - exercise added even more time.

Robert Sallis (a sports medicine specialist with Kaiser Permanente) said it best: "We have to get people to understand that it's not all about weight.  Not everyone can lose weight. But everyone can get fit."

"You can't lose 30 pounds tomorrow," he said. "But you can start exercising."

Written by Dr. Upton

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