Harvard Health Letter

Exercise can add years to your life

Here's more proof that exercise brings enormous health benefits, even if you remain overweight: a study in the Nov. 6, 2012, PLoS Medicine finds that overweight or obese people who engage in leisure-time physical activity can extend their lives by as much as four years, compared with similar-weight people who do no such activity. Being active and maintaining a healthy weight adds an even bigger benefit, boosting longevity by more than seven years. The findings are similar to those of a study reported in the July 2012 Harvard Health Letter, which found that fitness and fatness independently affect your heart and have a greater impact when combined.

So how do you get in on the benefit? "Being physically active is one of the best things you can do for health. It decreases the risk of many chronic diseases and so enhances longevity; it also improves physical and mental functioning. Even if you cannot meet physical activity recommendations (the equivalent of 150 minutes per week of brisk walking), any activity is better than none. Our study showed that even 75 minutes per week of brisk walking was associated with a gain of almost two years," says Dr. I-Min Lee, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and one of the study investigators.

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