Nurses can now tell middle aged men that taking up exercise will prolong their lives to the same level as stopping smoking, following latest Swedish study findings.
Around half of all middle aged men in western societies do not take part in any physical activity and getting them to change presents a challenge, reports the team from the Uppsala Clinical Research Centre in Sweden.
Their study of 2,205 men aged 50 tracked physical activity levels from 1970-1973 for 35 years with surveys and examinations five times during this period.
Overall 1,078 had high activity levels at the study start – equivalent to three hours of sports or heavy gardening per week – 36% had medium levels of activity and 15% were sedentary.
By the end of the study, 60% had died. However, death rates were 2.6 times higher in those that took up exercise during middle age in the first five years compared to men whose activity levels were already high.
After adjustments for other variables, they showed those doing high levels of physical activity from the age of 50 were likely to live 2.3 years longer than sedentary men and 1.1 years longer than those doing medium levels of activity.
The authors of the study, published online in the BMJ, note the effect of taking up high activity levels in middle age has an equivalent cut in death rates to stopping smoking.
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