November 14, 2005

Exercise to get fit, live longer: study

By Karla Gale

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Even moderate levels of
physical exercise prevent heart disease and prolong life, and
the degree of benefit increases as the level of physical
activity rises, according to a report released Monday.

Although the benefits of physical activity are widely
recognized, it is unclear whether the level of physical
activity significantly affects life expectancy or the length of
time people enjoy life free of heart disease.

To address these questions, researchers evaluated data on a
group of people over age 50 who participated in the Framingham
Heart study. This study has followed some 5,200 residents of
Framingham, Massachusetts, over the past 46 years.

After adjustment for smoking status, co-illnesses, and
other relevant factors, the authors estimate that subjects who
participated in moderate physical activity starting at age 50
lived 1.3 years longer, and 1.1 year longer free of heart
disease, than sedentary subjects.

Those who participated in high levels of physical activity
lived 3.5 years longer overall, and had 3.2 years longer free
of cardiovascular disease. The differences were similar for
both genders.

"Our study suggests that following an active lifestyle is
an effective way to achieve healthy aging," Dr. Oscar H.
Franco, from Erasmus MC University Medical Center Rotterdam in
the Netherlands, and his colleagues conclude.

In a related study, researchers looked at what impact a
doctor's advice to exercise at various frequencies and
intensities has on exercise behavior in 492 healthy but
sedentary men and women ages 30 to 69 years.

According to the records that the subjects kept, the amount
of exercise they actually completed was lower than the levels
prescribed, the investigators report.

"The bottom line," Dr. Michael G. Perri from the University
of Florida in Gainesville told Reuters Health, is that when a
doctor prescribes exercise to people, they don't do as much as
prescribed. They do about 60 percent of the amount they are
asked to do.

"The implications are that (doctors) probably have to
encourage people to aim high both in terms of frequency and
pace when using walking as an exercise to achieve observable
benefit," Perri said.

In other words, he added, "shoot for 30 minutes walking at
a brisk pace every day."

SOURCE: Archives of Internal Medicine, November 14, 2005.