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Journal of Aging Research
Volume 2012, Article ID 243958, 9 pages
Review Article

Does Physical Activity Increase Life Expectancy? A Review of the Literature

1Klinik für Neurologie, Zentralklinik Bad Berka, Robert-Koch-Allee 9, 99438 Bad Berka, Germany
2Fakultät Statistik, Technische Universität Dortmund, 44221 Dortmund, Germany
3Sportwissenschaft, Universität Konstanz, Universitätsstraße 10, 78457 Konstanz, Germany

Received 18 February 2012; Revised 19 March 2012; Accepted 13 April 2012

Academic Editor: Iris Reuter

Copyright © 2012 C. D. Reimers et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Physical activity reduces many major mortality risk factors including arterial hypertension, diabetes mellitus type 2, dyslipidemia, coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer. All-cause mortality is decreased by about 30% to 35% in physically active as compared to inactive subjects. The purpose of this paper was to synthesize the literature on life expectancy in relation to physical activity. A systematic PubMed search on life expectancy in physically active and inactive individuals was performed. In addition, articles comparing life expectancy of athletes compared to that of nonathletes were reviewed. Results of 13 studies describing eight different cohorts suggest that regular physical activity is associated with an increase of life expectancy by 0.4 to 6.9 years. Eleven studies included confounding risk factors for mortality and revealed an increase in life expectancy by 0.4 to 4.2 years with regular physical activity. Eleven case control studies on life expectancy in former athletes revealed consistently greater life expectancy in aerobic endurance athletes but inconsistent results for other athletes. None of these studies considered confounding risk factors for mortality. In conclusion, while regular physical activity increases life expectancy, it remains unclear if high-intensity sports activities further increase life expectancy.