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Exercise, Leisure Activities & Social Connections Linked to Longevity

A new study of seniors age 75 or older found that participants who were active physically, mentally, and socially were most likely to live past age 90. Researchers found that active seniors lived an average of 5.4 years longer than their inactive peers.   

The study followed 1810 adults age 75 and older over an 18 year period. Participants were questioned on a variety of topics including several social, physical, and lifestyle factors. By the time the study concluded, 92 percent of participants had passed away. The study found that individuals who lived the longest participated in some sort of physical activity, which included swimming, walking, or gymnastics, didn’t smoke, engaged in leisure activities, which included reading books or newspapers, doing crossword puzzles, or painting, and had a large social network. 

Although women on average lived longer than men, men saw a larger life expectancy increase when they exhibited healthy behaviors. Women with the healthy profile lived an average of 5 years longer and men with the healthy profile lived an average of 6 years longer than their peers who did not exhibit these healthy behaviors. Increases in lifespan were also seen in those with chronic conditions. Individuals with chronic conditions and a low risk profile lived 5 years longer than their peers with a high risk profile.

When just comparing individuals with a rich social network to those with a limited or poor social network, individuals with a rich social network lived at least 1.6 years longer than their peers without these social connections. "Our results suggest that encouraging favorable lifestyle behaviours [sic] even at advanced ages may enhance life expectancy, probably by reducing morbidity," concluded researchers.

Read the complete findings in the British Medical Journal.

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