Both weight and height, as well as physical activity, matter for women who might want to live up to the ripe age of 90, new research has found.

A team of researchers probed how certain factors, including body mass index or BMI and non-occupational physical activity, can affect the lifespan of men and women. They found that while body size does not foretell whether men will live a long life, it seemed to influence the life expectancy of women.

The discovery was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community.

Body Size Linked To Longer Life Span

The researchers used data from the Netherlands Cohort Study which involved over 7,800 men and women who were born in 1916 to 1979. The participants at 68 to 70 years of age completed a questionnaire in 1986, Their health was monitored until 2007 when everyone has turned 90.

They found that in men, height and BMI were not associated with the likelihood of reaching the age of 90. For women, height and a healthy BMI were found to be factors that were associated with a longer lifespan.

The researchers discovered that women who were tall and thin at the start of the study and remained thin until old age were more likely to reach 90 than men and short, heavier women.

Unfortunately, the study could not say why height and weight might be more important for women than men. However, David Katz, the director of the Yale University Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center, speculates that the stigma and depression that women experience due to obesity bias might be a factor.

Men with excess weight are less likely to be stigmatized because of their weight and men who have good mental health tend to be more comfortable with gaining weight over time. Women, however, are more reluctant to gain weight and those who do might have poor mental health or suffer from other forms of duress.

Exercise As The Key To Long Life

The researchers also found that women who exercise regularly have higher chances of having a longer lifespan. Those who exercised up to 60 minutes per day have an increased chance of making it the age of 90. Increasing the amount of physical activity does not seem to affect life expectancy.

For men, however, the more time they spend on physical activity every day, the better their chances of reaching 90. The researchers said that men who exercise more than 90 minutes a day were 39 percent likely to live longer than those who were physically active for 30 minutes or less. Every extra 30 minutes of daily physical activity adds a 5 percent likelihood that they will live up to the age of 90.

"Since most adults, both men and women, get less than an hour of physical activity daily, the takeaway message for now is more physical activity is better for both sexes," commented Katz.

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