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Body size, non-occupational physical activity and the chance of reaching longevity in men and women: findings from the Netherlands Cohort Study


Introduction The rising number of obese and/or physically inactive individuals might negatively impact human lifespan. This study assessed the association between height, body mass index (BMI) and non-occupational physical activity and the likelihood of reaching 90 years of age, in both sexes separately.

Methods Analyses were conducted using data from the Netherlands Cohort Study. Participants born in 1916–1917 (n=7807) completed a questionnaire in 1986 (at age 68–70 years) and were followed up for vital status information until the age of 90 years (2006–2007). Cox regression analyses were based on 5479 participants with complete data to calculate risk ratios (RRs) of reaching longevity (age 90 years).

Results In women, we observed significant associations between reaching longevity and height (RR: 1.05 per 5 cm increment; 95% CI 1.00 to 1.09), BMI at baseline (≥30vs18.5–<25 kg/m2; RR: 0.68; 95% CI 0.54 to 0.86) and BMI change since age 20 years (≥8vs0–<4 kg/m2; RR: 0.81; 95% CI 0.66 to 0.98). In men, height and BMI were not associated with reaching longevity. In women, non-occupational physical activity showed an inverse U-shaped association with reaching longevity, with the highest RR around 60 min of physical activity per day. In men, a positive linear association was observed between physical activity and reaching longevity.

Conclusion This study indicates that body size and physical activity are related to the likelihood of reaching 90 years of age and that these associations differ by sex.

  • longevity
  • body mass index
  • physical activity
  • height
  • sex differences
  • cohort study

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