November 15, 2005
Exercise Can Increase Life Expectancy Three And A Half Years

Using data from the Framingham Heart Study which follows several thousand people in Framingham Massachusetts Dutch researchers found that running 30 minutes a day 5 days a week will add 3.5 to 3.7 years to one's life.

"This shows that physical activity really does make a difference -- not only for how long you live but for how long you live a healthy life," said Oscar H. Franco of the Erasmus M.C. University Medical Center in Rotterdam, who led the study, published yesterday in the Archives of Internal Medicine. "Being more physically active can give you more time."


The researchers calculated the effects of low, moderate or high levels of physical activity on life span, accounting for the possible effects of factors such as age, sex, education, and whether they smoked or had serious health problems.

People who engaged in moderate activity -- the equivalent of walking for 30 minutes a day for five days a week -- lived about 1.3 to 1.5 years longer than those who were less active. Those who took on more intense exercise -- the equivalent of running half an hour a day five days every week -- extended their lives by about 3.5 to 3.7 years, the researchers found.

This result strikes me as an argument for getting a dog that is big enough to run as fast as you can. Those little pint-sized dogs just can't keep up to a human running at full gait. Dogs are great personal trainers, coming to you every day trying to get you to take them for a walk or run.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2005 November 15 07:08 AM  Aging Studies

Jason Airlie said at November 15, 2005 8:56 AM:

How many years of your life do you need to spend running?

Brett Bellmore said at November 15, 2005 9:36 AM:

I don't know; My experience of running with a big dog is that the dog is doing all the work of keeping you up to speed, and all you're getting out of it is impacts on your joints. ;)

Personally, running is out for me: Traumatic arthritis of the ankle due to a serious break some years ago. But maybe I should go through with that threat to hook my computer monitor up to a tachometer on the exercise bike...

Jay said at November 16, 2005 7:21 AM:

How ridiculous to claim that exercise will give you only a minor gain like 1.5 years.

It seems obvious to me you can expect to live at least 10-20 years longer if you adopt a healthy lifespan.

But don't ask me for scientific evidence to back that up. I'm speaking out of experience.

Volgo Incertius said at November 16, 2005 2:00 PM:

30 minutes*5(days)*52(weeks)*40(years of running)=216.7 days of your life actually spent on running. Not a lot, but no trivial investment either.

I think the real benefit is not life expectancy, but life quality when you're old. 15 years on a dialysis machine or 35 years on lipitor or even the last two years of your life bed-ridden is an embarrassment to human dignity. Having taken anatomy lab, I shudder to think about the misfortunes of the twilight days.

That said, if you bust your knees while running, it's medical hell also.

Maureen said at November 17, 2005 1:39 AM:

I do interval training (step aerobics/weight lifting) five days a week. I know I feel better and have more energy as a consequence. I've no doubt I'm also adding to my life expectancy too with the benefits of increased cardiovascular fitness. If studies such as this one encourage more people to take up exercise then that can only be a good thing. It doesn't have to be running. As the study says, "This shows that physical activity really does make a difference..."

Rob said at November 17, 2005 6:42 AM:

Hell, I'm pretty young and I feel like an old man if I go a week of not working out. My joints creak, I'm tired all the time. People are built to get exercise. I do wonder though if there is some selection effect with exercise where healthier people work out more because they can.

Brian said at November 17, 2005 2:36 PM:

30 minutes a day for 5 days a week gives you less than four years extra in life? Forget it. I rather save my knees and do something I would enjoy more. Eating and sitting in front of the television.

Reginald L. Jensen said at November 19, 2005 9:36 AM:

I read one comment with the response that it isn't worth exercising if the only gain is three or four years of extra life. That depends on where you are when the three or four years are available to you. When the doctor tells you that you only have three or four years to live, you might reconsider. It happened to me. In fact, I've written a book intitled "Thirty-Seven Years Ago My Doctor Told Me I Had Three Years To Live." My doctor was right, as my book testifies, but he didn't know at the time that exercise is magic. I'm still jogging and exercising and find it's much more satisfying that watching TV, eating too much, and waiting for the grim reaper to put me away. I love living. My current doctor tells me I have at least 10 more years to live.

Jeremy said at November 19, 2005 6:14 PM:

I've been reading these types of studies for years but where's the study that will tell me how to get my butt off the couch and consistently exercise.

Jeffrey Gordon said at November 20, 2005 12:37 PM:

Volgo said: "That said, if you bust your knees while running, it's medical hell also."

My personal hypothesis is we have a choice: exercise to keep your internal organs in good shape and eventually wear out your joints OR sit on your butt to spare your joints, but decay from the inside. Since we are currently slightly better at replacing joints than internal organs, the rational choice is to exercise and suffer the knee / hip replacements. Of course if your young enough you may live to see the era where both joints and innards can be replaced with original equipment. Then we won't have to make a choice.

Rob said: "I do wonder though if there is some selection effect with exercise where healthier people work out more because they can."

I too have wondered about this. Someone like Jack LaLanne comes to mind. Is Jack healthy because he works out, or does he work out because he's healthy.

crush41 said at November 20, 2005 8:38 PM:

"I think the real benefit is not life expectancy, but life quality when you're old."

How about the quality of a single day? The 'runner's high' is not a myth. I wonder what working out on a regular basis does for productivity. I seem to function best directly afterwards. I run, bike, or hike vigorously every day on a religious basis. This is not an investment in longevity but in the quality of daily existence and also to insulate myself from my atrocious family history of alcholism. Randall's post is pleasant gravy.

"That said, if you bust your knees while running, it's medical hell also."

Always run on the grass, paralleling the sidewalk along major roads where the ground is quite flat. Unfortunately a big dog is not going to help you here! Elliptical machines are another alternative--they provide a workout equivalent to running without the pounding and allow for easy reading while in motion.

Randall Parker said at November 20, 2005 9:00 PM:

You can get aerobic exercise in other ways besides running. Swimming is the most obvious way that avoids joint damage. A regular running friend of mine had to switch to swimming in his late 30s due to his knees. Geez we sure wear out quickly.

I agree with crush41 about the grass versus pavement. The grass is also better for the joints of dogs too. I remember with my last dog in his old age the vet told me to stop running him on the road but that running in fields was okay.

The machine approach also will allow you to watch something while exercising. You can watch a TV show or a lecture for example.

Mr. Econotarian said at November 21, 2005 2:31 PM:

30 minutes of walking a day also implies 15 minutes of getting ready (putting on running suit & shoes), and 15 minutes of shower/changing, so the total wasted time of running is more like 1.5 to 2 years, giving only about 1 year of extra life.

Amy Alkon, The Advice Goddess said at November 23, 2005 11:28 PM:

Then there's shopping for the running clothes and shoes and all the time you spend going to the doctor for physical therapy and knee replacement.

bob said at April 8, 2006 10:28 AM:

But you ignore the fact that you look better and feel better for the 69 years (the life expectancy in Amercica for a male) if you exercise. So it is much better then a fat person that has to wear sweats to the mall and can never get a date. Hence, there are significant benefits besides a year extension.

Plus,you have less medical bills and will get sick less often so you can work more effeciently.

Finally, studies have shown that people that exercise show cognitave improvements over those that do not.

Get off the couch.

Alex said at October 8, 2008 2:27 PM:

in responce to jeremy, who asked for a study that would teach him how to get his butt off the couch and consistently excersise, I think it would go something like this: get off your butt, and consistently excersise!

there's no magic to doing it. it gets easier. and don't think of it as a chore. think of it as something that starts out hard and gets easier. like school, or chess, or learning an instrument. albeit with someone punching you in the gut when you screw up. but hey, thats the thing. you can't screw up. there's no being stupid in excersise. you may never play freebird or get a checkmate in three, but excercise is like a video game. work hard enough, and it WILL get easier. you WILL get better. you WILL succede and get in shape. you WILL level up. oh, and im a 13 year old who has only recently started sports and running, and ive been kinda tubby all my life. im already high on it. my advice: find the motivation you need to get started, and soon you won't need it. it can be anything. a stupid thing. mine? its a classic: there's this girl...

Bob Shaefer said at August 31, 2009 10:32 AM:

This isn't something to debate. Use it or lose it.
Forget running multiple sets of sit ups daily.
Aerobic activity can be performed in so many ways.
I'm 65 and do 300 sit ups per day, plus other individual isolation exercises.
Stay away from nerd drugs and educate yourselves on natural alternatives.
For a search for anything written by Shane Ellison and you'll
quickly learn the way to a better and longer stay on this earth.
Doctors live no longer and reportedly shorter lives than average.
"Dead Doctors Don't Lie". Search it.

Tim Olsen said at January 4, 2010 9:11 AM:

Exercise is MedicineTM Dr. Silias
Long term study of adults exercise 30 min, 5 times per week, control group did not exercise.
exercise group, death rate at 80 years equal to control at 65 years.

Kevin Brown said at September 22, 2010 12:00 PM:

You do not just get up one day and say,"I am going to start exercising today." I have worked in the health and fitness industry for 10 years and see it everyday. People love to put fitness off as long as possible and then when they start they think they know what they need to do to get in shape. The best way to get in shape is to just start doing it, today! It is a life style not something you just decide that you will do for 30 or 60 days and then stop. There is no magic pill and there never will be. We are a society of people that want it to be quick and easy. Well, folks nothing that was every good for you has been quick or easy. If staying healthy was quick and easy we would be the best fit country in the world. We tend to put our health and fitness off until our Doctor says you need to get in shape or else. Well, it has been proven that it is much more cost effective for us to be in good shape than to be out of shape. If we are a society driven my money, then this should get some people off their butts and into a fitness club. The best advice I can give anyone thinking about starting a fitness program is to first stop thinking and start doing it, today. The best time to start was yesterday, but yesterday is gone so get started today and watch your life transform for the better.

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