Who’ll live longer: The weekend warrior or fitness fanatic?

Research on aging and longevity shows that while we can create a better quality of life and a healthier life for ourselves, extending life is harder to do.

A new study, however, shows that if anything can truly add years to your life — it’s exercise.

Does that mean you have to start hitting the gym every morning, biking in the afternoon or doing high intensity interval training a few times a day?

Far from it. It turns out “weekend warriors” who play pick-up games of basketball, or people who go out and jog or ride bikes on the weekends, are benefiting more than we might think…

If you get active, what have you got to lose?

Three of the biggest killer diseases in America today, that’s what. I’m referring to cancer, heart disease and diabetes. All of these diseases are preventable and reversible through combined lifestyle interventions that include diet, stress reduction, and sleep; early screenings; and reducing exposure to environmental factors. And, you guessed it, exercise seems to play a key role.

“On average, habitual exercisers live a couple of years longer than their peers who do not regularly exercise,” Gary O’Donovan, a research associate with the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine at Loughborough University in England, told HealthDay. “What’s more important, arguably, is that habitual exercisers may enjoy more years of independence and freedom from disease.”

O’Donovan’s research, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, looked at how not-so-regular exercise and leisure activities can also play a role in extending lives and delaying early death risk from these diseases. And the results were a little surprising to say the least…

The study

A study published in the January 9, 2017 issue of JAMA Internal Medicine, looked at the “association of ‘weekend warriors’” and other leisure time physical activity patterns — and risks for all-cause, cardiovascular disease, and cancer mortality” — among 63,591 participants, aged 40 and over.

The study looked to answer the question, “What are the associations of physical activity patterns with mortality?” The specific objective being the association of “physical activity patterns and the risk for all-cause, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and cancer mortality.”

From 1994-2012, researchers used household-based surveillance studies including 11 cohort or respondent studies to the Health Survey for England and Scottish Health Survey with prospective linkage to mortality records.

They looked at leisure-time activity patterns, defining them as:

  • Inactive (very low to no exertion)
  • Insufficiently active (low to moderate intensity, lasting less than 2.5 hours a week)
  • “Weekend warrior” activity (moderate intensity over 2.5 hrs per week or vigorous intensity of 1 or 2 sessions weekly)
  • Regular activity (more than 2.5 hrs week of moderate intensity or 1.25 hrs of vigorous intensity activity)

In which category would you place yourself? Let’s see how you might fare…

Study findings

Over 63,500 respondents were included in the study, of which nearly 45 percent were male and 44 percent female, with an average age of 58.6 years. During the study duration and follow up, there were 8,802 death from all causes, 2,780 deaths from cardiovascular disease (heart disease) and 2,526 deaths from cancer.

The study’s pooled analysis showed that active adults had 30 percent lower all-cause mortality risk than inactive adults. Active here included the “weekend warrior” who only performed 2.5 hours per week of moderate-intensity exercise, or 75 minutes weekly of vigorous activity.

So does that mean you don’t have to be an exercise fanatic to benefit from exercise?

That’s exactly what it means. This study shows that one to two sessions of moderate-to-vigorous intensity activity per week is enough to reap disease-fighting benefits that can add years to your life. Specifically, even those who have been inactive can extend their lifespan by 30%… if they manage to do a little bit of active movement via exercise, walking, biking, dancing, tai chi and so on.

If you find it hard to motivate yourself to do something, ease into it… Try these three ways to get fit without working out or get motivated in minutes with easy morning yoga. And when you need a little “push” grab a partner and do it together.

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Dr. Mark Wiley

By Dr. Mark Wiley

Dr. Mark Wiley is an internationally renowned mind-body health practitioner, author, motivational speaker and teacher. He holds doctorates in both Oriental and alternative medicine, has done research in eight countries and has developed a model of health and wellness grounded in a self-directed, self-cure approach. Dr. Wiley has written 14 books and more than 500 articles. He serves on the Health Advisory Boards of several wellness centers and associations while focusing his attention on helping people achieve healthy and balanced lives through his work with Easy Health Options® and his company, Tambuli Media.