The science of exercise and health has gotten a boost this week with a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
Exercise and health have become increasingly popular topics of conversation among young adults in the U.S., with many saying they feel better about their health due to the increased exposure to physical activity.
But the JAMA study found that exercise and physical activity are just one component of a healthy lifestyle.
The authors of the study analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a nationally representative survey that takes a snapshot of American adults every four years, looking at how much exercise and how much they do.
The survey also asked respondents about their eating habits and other physical health behaviors, including their alcohol and drug use, smoking and smoking cessation.
The study found “a significant inverse relationship between physical activity and mortality in women, but no significant relationship between exercise and mortality among men,” according to the report.
The researchers found that women who reported at least one hour of moderate or vigorous physical activity a week had a 23 percent lower risk of dying over their lifetime than women who did not report moderate or intense physical activity, but they also reported that their physical activity was lower than the national average.
In fact, the authors found that the difference between women who exercised and those who did physical activity did not reach statistical significance.
And while physical activity is important, the researchers found it does not guarantee health.
While moderate and vigorous physical activities appear to have health benefits, “exercise is not without its risks,” said the study’s lead author, Jennifer D. O’Connell, a researcher at the University of California, Davis.
“We believe physical activity can play a role in managing chronic diseases and chronic diseases can also be mitigated by exercise, but exercise alone cannot reverse or prevent the chronic diseases,” O’Connor said.
The paper is titled “A mixed evidence for the association between exercise, physical activity in adulthood and mortality.”
Exercise is a key component of the healthy lifestyle, but there is not enough evidence to draw strong conclusions from this study, said O’Reilly.
She also cautioned against relying on the findings to make recommendations for the future, noting that people need to be educated about how exercise impacts health.
“People should be making their own health decisions and they should be aware of the possible risks,” O ‘Reilly said.
But while the study does not provide any definitive recommendations for adults, it does suggest that people who are physically active should be doing more of it, she added.
The findings were based on data collected from the 2001-2002 and 2006-2007 waves of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), a random-digit-dial survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The NESARC survey collected data on the number of adults ages 12 and older, the prevalence of diabetes, hypertension, and obesity, among other health-related characteristics.
For this study that focused on people ages 30 to 49, the study found a significant inverse association between physical inactivity and mortality.
The association between moderate and strenuous physical activity persisted, but it did not have a statistically significant relationship with death.
For men, however, there was a significant association between vigorous physical inversion and mortality, and this relationship was more pronounced in men.
“The reason this relationship exists is that the association is mediated by age, so if people are younger, they are more likely to be active and less likely to die,” said O ‘Brien.
“However, if you’re older, your risk of death is lower, and therefore you’re more likely that you will die from cardiovascular disease, which is a major contributor to death,” O Connor said.
“So it’s really important to have exercise at least some of your days.”
O’Brien said people should continue to look at the studies that have been published that have looked at the relationship between health and physical inactivation, and make sure they understand the differences between physical exercise and regular physical activity when it comes to risk factors for disease and death.
“I would encourage people to have a discussion with their doctor about whether exercise is beneficial,” O O’ Connor said, “and I would encourage them to discuss this with their healthcare providers, their dietitians, their physical therapists and other health care providers who are knowledgeable about this topic.”
A version of this story was originally published on March 2, 2018.