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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
  1. Lloyd Brandts1,
  2. Piet A van den Brandt1,2
  1. 1 Department of Epidemiology, Maastricht University Medical Centre, GROW – School for Oncology and Developmental Biology, Maastricht, The Netherlands
  2. 2 Department of Epidemiology, Maastricht University Medical Centre, CAPHRI – School for Public Health and Primary Care, Maastricht, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Lloyd Brandts, Department of Epidemiology, Maastricht University Medical Centre, GROW- School for Oncology and Developmental Biology, Maastricht 6200 MD, The Netherlands; lloyd.brandts{at}


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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  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Contributors Both authors conceptualised the paper. LB analysed the data, prepared the tables and wrote the paper. PAvdB designed the study, coordinated the data collection and analyses and provided critical revisions for important intellectual content. Both authors read and approved the final version of the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors did not receive any specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval The Netherlands Cohort Study study has been approved by the institutional review boards of Maastricht University and the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research TNO (Zeist).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.