Research in twins is proving that regular exercise can help extend the lifespan of every individual, regardless of their individual genetic makeup. Leisure-time physical activity is associated with reduced mortality, even after genetic and other familial factors are taken into account. Those who reported exercising for at least 30 minutes at least six times per month were considered conditioning exercisers, while those reporting less regular exercise were labeled occasional exercisers. Individuals reporting no regular exercise were considered sedentary by the researchers.
The investigators found that individuals twins who engaged in vigorous conditioning exercise were able to reduce their risk of death by an average of 43% compared with sedentary types. And they found that even occasional exercisers were able to reduce their mortality risk by 29% compared with non-exercisers. Even though twins share highly similar genetic and familial backgrounds, the Finnish team found that those who exercised managed to reap the health benefits of their ongoing activity; while those avoiding activity suffered relative declines. The researchers say their findings suggest that regular exercise is a preventive factor for premature mortality, independent of genetic influences.
The Journal of the American Medical Association (1998;279(6):440-444)
COMMENT: I am sure this study surprises no one. When I first started exercising in 1968 this concept would have been considered medical heresy. Those were the days when doctors told patients to stay in bed for six week after a heart attack to "rest their heart". When I first started running in the 60s people would think I had committed a crime and was running from it, or other kids would throw rocks at me, thinking I was weird. It is amazing how times change. I suspect that we will see a similar transition about many of the topics that I write about in this newsletter. It just takes medical science about 10 to 20 years to catch up to what most people who care about health already know.