Effects of Physical Inactivity on Health: Part 3 - Mortality and LongevityAug 22, 2022
What if I told you that there is good evidence to suggest that you can add years on to your life by becoming more physically active? I’m sorry to inform you that these benefits do not come from an herb or supplement. If you read the last blog on heart disease, cancer, and stroke, I mention that high levels of cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) reduces the prevalence of high blood pressure, hyperlipidemia, inflammation, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and type II diabetes. (1) Not only that, but being physically active can lower your risk of death by heart disease, cancer, and stroke. These three chronic health conditions were examined in the last article, but what about death in general? You may question “if I’m a healthy adult with no pre-existing conditions, what benefits does exercising give me in terms of life expectancy?”. This article is going to outline physical activity and the role it plays in life expectancy and mortality.
It is no secret that life expectancy is going up with the introduction of new technology and modern advancements, but it is less known that our lifestyle choices early on in our life can diminish the quality within those additional years. I think given the chance, everybody would want to live a longer life.
Life span is greater than health span. This gap is actually growing in size, meaning, we’re becoming unhealthier earlier on in life and living more years with chronic disease and disability. Closing this gap is actually easier than you might think, no matter where you are in life. It has been demonstrated that an adherence to five low-risk lifestyle changes could prolong your total life expectancy, by adding 14 years (female) and 12 years (male) of quality years to your life. (2) These five lifestyle modifications are:
- Not smoking
- Healthy weight
- Healthy diet
- Regular physical activity
- Moderate alcohol consumption
Physical activity and high cardiorespiratory fitness (level of aerobic capacity) reduces all-cause mortality (death from any cause). It has also been demonstrated that there is a direct linear relationship between dose of physical activity and longevity, with no upper limit. (3) This means that as you increase your physical activity or CRF, the more years you add to your life. The recommended physical activity guidelines put out from the World Health Organization (WHO) demonstrated that we must acquire 150-300 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity or 75-150 vigorous physical activity. (4)
In a study with over 660,000 participants, meeting the weekly physical activity guidelines set forth by the WHO, found that by doing so you increase life expectancy, along with a 40% reduction in all-cause mortality (5). Inversely, there was a 50% increase in all-cause mortality in another study for those who have a sedentary lifestyle (>8 hours of sitting per day). These negative effects were offset by 420 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity per week (6). It has been demonstrated multiple times in many different studies that not only does physical activity reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases, but death from it.
It’s easy to feel that things like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, etc., is out of your control, but that is farthest from the truth. Honestly, this instills learned helplessness, which creates the thought process that no matter what you do there is no escaping fate. Even if you have a genetic predisposition towards conditions/disease, physical activity and lifestyle choices give you the best chance possible for either negating the disease or reducing its impact on your life. Starting now, 15 minutes of activity done today can reduce all-cause mortality by 14%. Take control of your health, and by doing so you will take control of your life.
- Bauman, Adrian, et al. “Updating the Evidence for Physical Activity: Summative Reviews of the Epidemiological Evidence, Prevalence, and Interventions to Promote ‘Active Aging.’” The Gerontologist, vol. 56, no. Suppl 2, 2016, https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnw031.
- Li, Yanping, et al. “Impact of Healthy Lifestyle Factors on Life Expectancies in the US Population.” Circulation, vol. 138, no. 4, 2018, pp. 345–355., https://doi.org/10.1161/circulationaha.117.032047.
- Burtscher J, Ruedl G, Posch M, et al. The upper limit of cardiorespiratory fitness associated with longevity: an update. AIMS Public Health 2019;6:225–8.
- United States Department of Health and Human Services. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: Be Active, Healthy, and Happy! Washington, DC: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 2008, p. Ix.
- Arem H, Moore SC, Patel A, et al. Leisure time physical activity and mortality: a detailed pooled analysis of the dose-response relationship.. JAMA Intern Med 2015;175:959–67.
- Stamatakis E, Gale J, Bauman A, et al. Sitting time, physical activity, and risk of mortality in adults. J Am Coll Cardiol 2019;73:2062–72.
- Wen CP, Wai JPM, Tsai MK, et al. Minimum amount of physical activity for reduced mortality and extended life expectancy: a prospective cohort study. Lancet 2011;378:1244–53.
- Burtscher, Johannes, and Martin Burtscher. “Run for Your Life: Tweaking the Weekly Physical Activity Volume for Longevity.” British Journal of Sports Medicine, vol. 54, no. 13, 2019, pp. 759–760., https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2019-101350.