New European research has found that height and weight may influence a woman’s lifespan significantly more than that of a man, and that the amount of exercise associated with living longer also differs between the sexes.
Carried out by researchers at Maastricht University Medical Centre, The Netherlands, the new study analysed data from 3646 men and 4161 women aged between 68 and 70 who had taken part in the Netherlands Cohort Study (NLCS).
The participants were asked to provide information at the start of the study, when aged 68 to 70, on their current weight and height and their leisure-time physical activity. This included activities such as gardening, dog walking, DIY, walking or cycling to work, and sports, which were grouped into three different categories of less than 30 minutes a day; 30 to 60 minutes a day; and 90 minutes or more per day.
Participants were then followed until age 90 or their death, whichever came first.
The findings, published online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, showed that women who were still alive by age 90 were, on average taller, had weighed less at the start of the study, and had put on less weight since the age of 20 than those who were shorter and heavier.
More specifically, women who were more than 175 cm tall were 31% more likely to reach 90 than women less than 160 cm.
However, the same associations were not found among the men, with no link found between body size and lifespan.
When looking at the effect of physical activity on lifespan, the researchers also found differences between men and women.
Although keeping active was linked to a longer life for both men and women, the results suggested that the more time men spend physically active each day, the better it is for their chances of living longer; for every extra 30 minutes of daily physical activity done, men benefited from a 5% increase in their chances of turning 90.
In addition, men who did over 90 minutes of activity a day were 39% more likely to reach 90 than those who did less than 30 minutes.
For women, on the other hand, after a certain point, more exercise didn’t mean a better chance of hitting 90, with the team finding that 60 minutes of activity a day appeared to be the optimal amount of exercise for women if they wanted to live a longer life.