Adults who participate in leisure time physical activity, even below recommended levels, are likely to reduce their risk of death, according to a review study that included 650,000 people over age 40 years.

Life expectancy could be increased by as much as 4.5 years, regardless of weight. Even obese people who were very active were found to live an average of 3.1 more years than inactive people of normal weight.

The results may help convince currently inactive people that a modest physical activity program may have health benefits, even if it does not result in weight loss, the study concludes.

1. Moore SC, Patel AV, Matthews CE, et al. Leisure time physical activity of moderate to vigorous intensity and mortality: a large pooled cohort analysis. PLoS Medicine 2011; 9(11): e1001335. (open access)