Life Expectancy

Life Expectancy

In the US, Life expectancy at birth in 2009 is 78.5 years.

World Health Organization (2011). Global Health Observatory Data Repository.

From 1900 through 2004, life expectancy at birth increased from 46 to 75 years for men and from 48 to 80 years for women.

U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics, Health, United States, (2007).

Time Sitting

Treadmill Workstation

Sitting for long periods may decrease your lifespan. Unfortunately, most people remain seated for a great portion of their day. The more time you spend seated throughout the day, the greater your risk for dying from all causes, presumably even if you do exercise regularly. Reducing time seated to less than three hours a day could add two years to one's life expectancy at birth on average.

Katzmarzyk PT, Church TS, Craig CL, Bouchard C (2009). Sitting time and mortality from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 41(5):998-1005.

Katzmarzyk PT, Lee I-M (2012). Sedentary behaviour and life expectancy in the USA: a cause-deleted life table analysis. BMJ Open. 2:e000828.

Leisure-time Activity

A lack of leisure-time physical activity accounts for an estimated 0.9 years of life expectancy at birth in Canada.

Katzmarzyk PT (2006). Physical inactivity and life expectancy in Canada. J Phys Act Health. 3, 381.


In the US, Smoking is associated with 2.5 and 1.8 years of life expectancy at birth in men and women, respectively.

Danaei G, Rimm EB, Oza S, et al. (2010) The promise of prevention: the effects of four preventable risk factors on national life expectancy and life expectancy disparities by race and county in the United States. PLoS Med, 7.

Weight Loss

In adult 35 years of age and older, attempted weight loss is associated with lower all-cause mortality, independent of weight change. Self-reported intentional weight loss is associated with lower mortality rates, but unintentional weight loss is associated with higher mortality rates (Greg 2003).

Also see Obesity & Mortality

Yo-yo Dieting

Researchers at Harvard University analyzed data on 11,703 subjects over 30 years to study the effects of weight cycling on life expectancy.

  • Those whose weight remained stable had a lower mortality rate.
  • Those who lost weight who lost weight were more likely to die than those who gained weight.
  • Men who gained more than 11 lbs (5 kg) were 36% more likely to die than those whose weight remained stable.
  • Men who lost more than 11 pounds were 57% more likely to die.
  • Those who had lost 11 pounds over the decade had lost and gained and average of 100 lbs (45 kg) over their lifetimes.

It was proposed the stress of yo-yo dieting contributed to a higher death rate. The researchers concluded it was probably better to remain slightly overweight than to weight cycle due to the high recidivism rate of dieters.

Do Yo-yo dieters die young? Health 7(2):10, 1993.

Walking Programs


  • Exercise can add 2 years to your life (Paffenbarger & Lee, 1996).
  • Exercising briskly can add at least 3 years to your life (Oscar 2005).
  • Those who exercise regularly are 65 percent less likely to die prematurely than those who are unfit (Blair et al 1989).

Fitness & Mortality

Fitness level is far more important than body weight as a predictor of longevity. Individuals as great as 50 pounds over the recommended weight in height/weight charts have lower mortality rates than thin people who were sedentary (Blair & Paffenbarger, 1994; Blair, et al., 1989).

Poor physical fitness is directly linked to higher disease rates and higher death from all causes (Andrew, et al. JAMA 2005)

Subjects: 10,000 men. Fitness level assessed on treadmill. (Blair SH, Kohl H, 1988).

All-cause deaths per 10,000
Fitness Level 1) Lowest 2 3) Medium 4 5) Highest
Death Rate 64.0 25.5 27.7 21.7 18.6
Relative Risk 1.0 0.40 0.42 0.34 0.29

Black Women & Heart Disease

Compared to white women, black women have a higher incidence of heart disease and they are twice as likely to die from the disease.

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