The Objective Physical Activity and Cardiovascular Health (OPACH), an ancillary study to the Women's Health Initiative (WHI), aimed to investigate physical activity and sedentary time (measured by an accelerometer) on health outcomes such as cardiovascular outcomes in postmenopausal women 63 years and older.
Previous studies examining this large cohort of participants of older women found strong and beneficial associations of accelerometer-measured light physical activity, moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, and sedentary time with longevity during a follow-up period around three years.
However, these previous associations did not take into account genetic contributions to these findings. In other words, how do genes mediate the impact of physical activity on health benefits and a long life? Therefore, the goal of this latest prospective study was to leverage a longer follow-up period in the OPACH cohort and investigate potential associations between genetic makeup and longevity.
Beginning back in 2012, researchers gathered genetic data and measured the physical activity of 5,446 women 63 years and older in the United States. Continuing up until 2020 tracking their health metrics, the participants wore an accelerometer to measure the time they spent moving, how intense their activity was, and how much time they spent resting or sedentary.
What they found was that even in participants who regularly engaged in moderate or even light physical activity, their longevity was improved. On average, they lived longer. On the other hand, those who were more sedentary lived shorter lives, on average. Most significant? These associations persisted regardless of an impressive genetic predisposition for longevity, or not. (Hello, to the power of lifestyle and regular movement on epigenetics).
The good news is that even if you aren’t a huge fan of intense physical activity, walking for just 21 minutes a day may be enough to support your overall well-being and a long and healthy life. Really, any little bit helps, regardless of intensity!