Ian Janssen of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, and colleagues at the Brigham and Women's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge and the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina estimated the potential years of life gained by moving around more when not working.
Less than half of the U.S. adult population meet physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity, Janssen said.
The researchers used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2007 to 2010, National Health Interview Study mortality linkage 1990 to 2006 and U.S. Life Tables 2006.
The data were used to estimate and compare life expectancy at each age of adult life for those who are inactive, somewhat-active and active.
Somewhat-active and active non-Hispanic white men had a life expectancy at age 20 of 2.4 years longer than that for the inactive men. This life expectancy advantage dropped to 1.2 years at age 80.
Similar observations were made in non-Hispanic white women, who had a higher life expectancy within the active category of 3 years at age 20 years and 1.6 years at age 80.
The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found non-Hispanics could expect to gain 2.3 to 5.6 hours of life for every hour of moderate physical activity, and 5.2 to 11.3 hours of life for every hour of vigorous physical activity they accumulate during adulthood.