Feeling bad for not making your weekly fitness quota? Don’t sweat it — you’re still adding years to your life.
According to a new study published in the PLoS Medicine journal, if you exercise regularly you’ll add approximately 3.5 extra years to your life. If you work out at a higher intensity, you add an additional 4.5 years.
The study showed that a physical activity level equal to brisk walking for up to 75 minutes per week was associated with a gain of 1.8 years in life expectancy, compared with someone with no leisure time activity. Those who have a physical activity level at or above the recommended minimum of 150 minutes of brisk walking per week were associated with an overall gain of 3.4 to 4.5 years. Think of all the moderate levels of exercise you can do in an hour: swimming, brisk walking or jogging, moderate-paced cycling etc.
While sustaining a healthy body weight is important and adds the most years on to your life, the study shows that the physical activity and life expectancy association was evident at all BMI levels. Being active and normal weight was associated with a gain of 7.2 years of life, compared with being inactive and class II+ obese (having a BMI of more than 35.0 kg/m2). However, being inactive but normal weight was associated with 3.1 fewer years of life, compared with being active but class I obese (having a BMI of 30–34.9 kg/m2).
“This finding may help convince currently inactive persons that a modest physical activity program is ‘worth it’ for health benefits, even if it may not result in weight control,” the authors of the study wrote.