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Women reap bigger longevity from physical activity, study finds

A comprehensive study conducted on 412,413 U.S. adults has unveiled striking findings: women experience more substantial reductions in all-cause and cardiovascular mortality risks from leisure-time physical activity than men.

Published by Hongwei Ji MD, alongside a distinguished team including Martha Gulati MD, MS, and several other experts, this research emphasizes the differential impact of exercise based on gender, offering a pivotal step towards bridging the gender gap in exercise engagement.

24% lower risk of all-cause mortality

Analyzing data from 1997 through 2019, the study meticulously tracked leisure-time physical activity among participants and its association with mortality. Throughout 4,911,178 person-years of follow-up, it was observed that women engaging in regular leisure-time physical activity had a 24% lower risk of all-cause mortality, compared to a 15% reduction in men.

Interestingly, while men reached maximum survival benefits from 300 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, women achieved similar benefits at just 140 minutes per week, with continued improvements up to 300 minutes per week.

Equally notable were the study’s findings on cardiovascular deaths, where the benefits of physical activity again significantly favored women, demonstrating a consistent pattern across various types of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.

The implications of this research are far-reaching. It not only highlights the critical role of physical activity in enhancing longevity but also underscores the need for gender-specific guidelines and motivations to promote exercise.

By recognizing the greater gains women achieve from physical activity, the findings could significantly influence public health strategies, aiming to motivate more women to incorporate regular exercise into their routines, thereby reducing mortality risks and advancing health equality.

The study’s senior authors advocate for a shift in how we approach exercise promotion among women, suggesting that even modest amounts of regular leisure-time physical activity can lead to substantial health benefits. This pioneering research marks a significant milestone in our understanding of physical activity’s role in health and longevity, especially for women, and sets the stage for a more inclusive and effective public health response to exercise engagement.

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