A new study found that exercising during the teenage years may help women lower their risk of mortality due to cancer and other health diseases. The researchers particularly found that playing team sports may help boost women's health in the long-term.

Information regarding the effects of physical activity or exercise during the adolescent phase is limited and so the researchers from the Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center, Vanderbilt School of Medicine and Shanghai Cancer Institute investigated the role of the said modifiable element in the risk development of morbidity and mortality among young women as they become adults.

The researchers used the Shanghai Women's Health Study (SWHS) to analyze the relationship between teenage physical activity and the development of diseases such as cardiovascular problems, cancer and other conditions that may cause mortality among middle-aged and older women. The SWHS is a prospective cohort that is comprised of data from 74,941 Chinese women aged 40-70 years old. The survey, collated from 1996-2000, involved in-person interview questions and answers about the participants' teenage and adult physical activity, reproductive and overall health history, lifestyle, social and economic factors. Information about follow-up deaths among the participants was collected by contacting the Shanghai Vital Statistics Registry annually.

The findings of the study, published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, show that staying active for about 1.3 hours per week can result in positive effects to health as they grow older. The percentage of mortality risk due to cancer and other mortality causes is 16 percent and 15 percent lower in participants who worked out during their teenage years respectively. Follow-up studies after an average of nearly 13 years revealed 5,282 deaths, 2,375 of which died due to cancer and 1,620 succumb to cardiovascular disease. Overall, the researchers discovered that a 20 percent lower risk of death due to all causes may be associated with women who were physically active as teenagers and adults, compared to those who did not lead an active lifestyle.

"The main finding is that exercise during adolescence is associated with a reduced risk of mortality, or death, in middle aged to older women," says Sarah J. Nechuta, an assistant professor of medicine at Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center and Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville.

This recent investigation is the first large study that involved Asian women and their physical activity and mortality data. Exercising during the teenage years offers a multitude of benefits and so even if the study was performed on Chinese women, the results may be applicable to women in general, the researchers note.

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