“We have a large body of evidence that suggests that,
the more physically active people are,
the less likely they are to die.”
Brisk, half-hour walks just six times a month, appeared to cut the risk of death by 44 percent among twins in a study researchers say is the first to separate the influences of heredity and exercise on longevity.
The study tracked almost 16,000 healthy men and women in a national registry of twins in Finland for an average of 19 years. The authors, led by Dr. Urho M. Kujala of the University of Helsinki, reported their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The researchers found that even occasional exercisers—those who did less than the equivalent of six brisk, half-hour walks a month—were 30 percent less likely to die than their sedentary twins during the study. Vigorous exercisers—those who did at least the equivalent of 6 brisk walks or jogs lasting 30 minutes each month—were 44 percent less likely to die.
“Even if you have bad genes, this study strongly suggests that increasing physical activity can help you live
longer,” said exercise physiologist Steve Ferrell for Aerobics Research in Dallas. He was not involved in the study.
The importance of family history—a locked-in trait—has gained attention in recent years with the identification of specific genes that make people susceptible to such illnesses as heart disease and cancer. But much research also makes clear the importance of exercise in lowering the risk of early death and disease.
"We have a large body of evidence that suggests that, the more physically active people are, the less likely they are to
die," Farrell said. "But this study is unique because it was able to separate out mortality due to genetics vs. mortality due to fitness." The researchers took into account differences in smoking habits.
"It doesn't take an enormous amount of exercise to give people protection," Farrell said. "The findings apply to every-one, not just twins, "Riverside Calif. Press Enterprise, 2-11-98.