Does physical activity increase life expectancy?

“While debates have raged about the role of diet in facilitating longevity and healthy, evidence from theoretical and empirical studies support the fact the diet indeed plays an instrumental role in enhancing longevity and decelerating the process of aging. For example, in a cohort study examining the relationship between diet and longevity, the researcher found out that diet quality and the Mediterranean diet had potential effects on longevity, with the important effects of nutrition on longevity relating with quality, quantity, variety, frequency, and emotional satisfaction [1]. Another study affirmed that dietary restrictions in fatty foods, high cholesterol foods, and reductions in salt intake modulate the genetic pathways that play a direct role in regulating metabolism and aging [2]. In jurisdictions with a reputation of longevity such as Okinawa in Japan and Guiyang province in China, there is high consumption of soybeans as in tofu and other soy products as well as fish that contains taurine, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and amino acids, all of which have a positive effect against lifestyle-related disease [3]. Cases of obesity, stroke, and myocardial infarction are less common in these areas because of the consumption of such diets on a daily basis.
Some controversy exists surrounding the factors in exercise that promote longevity and health, but recent advances in the study of the correlation between exercise and longevity have helped to shed light on the factors in exercise that promote longevity and promote healthy aging. A comprehensive literature review relying on 13 evidence-based articles established that sustained physical activity promotes health and longevity via reducing major mortality risk factors including type II diabetes mellitus, coronary heart disease, arterial hypertension, cancer and stroke by 30-35% in physically active individuals [4]. Taking on a longitudinal approach in examining the relationship between longevity and frequency of moderate physical activity, another study found out that increased moderate physical activity increased longevity through reducing cardiac morbidity and improving cognitive functioning as well as the overall quality of life [5]. From a different dimension, researchers investigating the benefits of regular exercise on longevity established that exercises geared towards improving muscle fitness and cardiorespiratory fitness as well as balance and flexibility can preserve functional reserve in the elderly while simultaneously reversing the effects of the aging process on physiological functions [6].
Even though much evidence has amassed on the strong causal relationship between social support and longevity and health, important gaps exist in people’s understanding of the mechanisms of these associations. Drawing from data grounded on longitudinal studies in the United States, one inquiry revealed the a higher degree of social support and social integration improved biomarkers of physical health including BMI, blood pressure, and C-reactive protein in different stages of life, thereby improving health and longevity of citizens with high levels of social support [7]. Similarly, a systematic review conducted on the topic of social support and longevity established that social support improves physical activity in older adults, particularly leisure time physical activity when the support comes from family members, which consequently improves health and longevity [8]. Evidence from a cross sectional study looking at the influence of social support among older Canadians and Latin Americas similarly found out that high levels of social support from family members, partner, children and friends led to low levels of depression and increased the overall quality of life for the participants, leading to better health and higher longevity [9].

1.Gezer, C. (2018). Impact of dietary pattern on human life quality and life expectancy: A mini-review. Research & Investigations in Sports Medicine, 2(5), 1-3.
2.Caprara, G. (2018). Diet and longevity: The effects of traditional eating habits on human lifespan extension. Mediterranean Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism, 11(3), 261-294.
3.Yamori, Y. (2009). Do diets good for longevity really exist? Lessons from the eating habits of countries with long-lived. Japan Medical Association Journal, 52(1), 17–22.
4.Reimers, C. D., Knapp, G., & Reimers, A. K. (2012). Does physical activity increase life expectancy? A review of the literature. Journal of Aging Research, 11, 243-251.
5.Rennemark, M., Jogréus, C., Elmståhl, S., Welmer, A.–K., & Wimo, A. (2018). Relationships between frequency of moderate physical activity and longevity: An 11-year follow-up study. Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine, 4, 233-242.
6.Gremeaux, V., Gayda, M., Lepers, R., Sosner, P., & Juneau, M. (2012). Exercise and longevity. Maturitas, 73(4), 1-13.
7.Yang, Y. C., Boen, C., Gerken, K., Li, T., & Schorpp, K. (2016). Social relationships and physiological determinants of longevity across the human life span. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 113(3), 578–583.
8.Smith, G., Banting, L., Eime, R., O’Sullivan, G., & van Uffelen, J. G. (2017). The association between social support and physical activity in older adults: A systematic review. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 14, 56-63.
9.Bélanger, E., Ahmed, T., Vafaei, A., Curcio, C. L., & Phillips, S. P. (2016). Sources of social support associated with health and quality of life: A cross-sectional study among Canadian and Latin American older adults. BMJ Open, 6(6), 11-19. “

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