Physical exercise enhances or maintains physical fitness and overall health. A new study suggests that regular exercise during adolescence may lower death risk in middle and older age from all causes, including cancer, especially in women.
Study author, Sarah J. Nechuta, assistant professor of medicine at Vanderbilt Epidemiology Centre in the US, said, "Understanding the long-term impact of modifiable lifestyle factors such as exercise in adolescence is of critical importance and can have substantial public health implications for disease prevention over the course of life."
Researchers used data from the Shanghai Women's Health Study, that involved about 75,000 women aged between 40 to 70 years. The study had detailed information on participants reported at baseline recruitment, including self-reported exercise participation between the ages of 13 and 19 years, adult lifestyle-related factors, and mortality outcomes.
After an average of 12.9 years of follow-up period, there were 5,282 deaths, including 2,375 from cancer and 1,620 from cardiovascular disease. After adjusting for socio-economic factors in adult life, the research team found that women who participated in exercise as adolescents for 1.33 hours a week or less, had a 16% lowered risk for death from cancer, and a 15% lowered risk from all causes. Those who participated in exercise as adolescents for over 1.33 hours every week, had a 13% lowered risk for death from all causes.
After adjusting for socio-economic factors in adult life, women who participated in team sports as adolescents had a 14% lowered risk for death from cancer, and a 10% from all causes. Women who participated in exercise both in their adolescent and adult lives had a 20% lowered risk for death from all causes. Nechuta said, "Our results support the importance of promoting exercise participation in adolescence to reduce mortality in later life and highlight the critical need for the initiation of disease prevention early in life."
The study was published in the Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.