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On Exercise and Laugh Expectancy

Can sufficient exercise achieve immortality? The Lancet seems to think so.

by
Theodore Dalrymple

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May 21, 2012 - 10:43 pm
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Medical journals, the Lancet among them, are not famed for their humor, but a letter in a recent edition of the latter raised a smile, at least in me.

It referred to a previous paper in that august publication from Taiwan about the health benefits of exercise. It is a medical truth now universally acknowledged that regular exercise prolongs human life, but it is not known what is the smallest amount of exercise that will have such an effect.

Between 1996 and 2008, the Taiwanese researchers divided 416,175 people into five categories, according to the amount of exercise, on self-report, that they did: from none to a lot. They discovered that those who did a little exercise, on average 92 minutes per week, had a reduction of 14 percent in their all-cause rate of mortality. They also found that “every additional 15 minutes of daily exercise beyond the minimum of 15 minute per day further reduced all-cause mortality by 4 percent.”

The subsequent letter to the Lancet pointed out that this cannot be correct: for if it were correct, and on the assumption that the relation between exercise and longevity were a causative one, Man would be immortal if only he did sufficient daily exercise, something in the region of six hours. In these circumstances, at least in my opinion, life would not actually go on forever; it would merely seem as if it did, in the sense of being boring and pointless.

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