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Am J Prev Med. 2013 Jan;44(1):23-9. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2012.09.056.

Years of life gained due to leisure-time physical activity in the U.S.

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School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada.



Physical inactivity is an important modifiable risk factor for noncommunicable disease. The degree to which physical activity affects the life expectancy of Americans is unknown.


This study estimated the potential years of life gained due to leisure-time physical activity in the U.S.


Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2007-2010); National Health Interview Study mortality linkage (1990-2006); and U.S. Life Tables (2006) were used to estimate and compare life expectancy at each age of adult life for inactive (no moderate to vigorous physical activity); somewhat-active (some moderate to vigorous activity but <500 MET minutes/week); and active (≥ 500 MET minutes/week of moderate to vigorous activity) adults. Analyses were conducted in 2012.


Somewhat-active and active non-Hispanic white men had a life expectancy at age 20 years that was ~2.4 years longer than that for the inactive men; this life expectancy advantage was 1.2 years at age 80 years. Similar observations were made in non-Hispanic white women, with a higher life expectancy within the active category of 3.0 years at age 20 years and 1.6 years at age 80 years. In non-Hispanic black women, as many as 5.5 potential years of life were gained due to physical activity. Significant increases in longevity were also observed within somewhat-active and active non-Hispanic black men; however, among Hispanics the years-of-life-gained estimates were not significantly different from 0 years gained.


Leisure-time physical activity is associated with increases in longevity.

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