By Kate Marie
Recent findings show that older women who exercise on a regular basis and eat good amounts of fruits and vegetables live longer.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, was designed to look at physical disability in older women. Researchers studied 713 women who were between 70 and 79 year old.
They looked at the impact of both exercise and healthy eating on life expectancy. Although these factors had been already studied in the past it was the first time that they were examined in combination.
The participants’ physical activity and fruit and vegetable intake were first evaluated. The study then followed the women for 5 years to evaluate the association between healthy eating, exercise and life expectancy.
At the onset of the study, 53% of the women reported that they didn’t do any exercise, 21% reported moderate exercise, and 26% reported being very active.
To estimate the consumption of fruits and vegetables, blood levels of carotenoids was measured. These are plant pigments that the body turns into antioxidants, such as beta-carotene. The higher the intake of fruits and vegetables, the higher the blood levels of carotenoids.
During the 5-year follow-up period, 11.5% of the participants died. It was found that the women who were most physically active and had the highest fruit and vegetable consumption were 8 times more likely to survive than the women with the lowest rates.
More specific research findings were as follow:
- Women in the most active group had a 71% lower five-year death rate than the women in the least active group.
- Women in the highest carotenoid group had a 46% lower five-year death rate than the women in the lowest carotenoid group.
- Women who survived had blood levels of carotenoid 12% higher and their total physical activity was more than twice as high.
In sum, when taken together, physical activity levels and serum carotenoid levels predicted longer lives.
This is an encouraging result showing that we can do many simple things to increase our longevity. In terms of programs and policies, promoting better nutrition and more physical exercise in older adults seems to be a must.
This post was written by Kate Marie, an active professional in the health, medical and aged care sectors. Kate is the co-author of the book Fast Living, Slow Ageing. Learn more about her slow aging philosophy on her blog: slowagingblog.com