Researchers from the Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center examined 75,000 women aged 40 to 70 from the Shanghai’s Women’s Health Study. The study included baseline information for the women including their level of activity in their adolescent years (13 to 19).
After a nearly 12 year follow-up there were 5,282 deaths reported – 2,375 from cancer and 1,620 from cardiovascular disease.
Results were adjusted for socioeconomic factors where the researchers uncovered that those women who exercised in their adolescent years for at least 1.33 hours a week or less lowered their risk of death by cancer by 16 percent.
Additionally, they lowered their risk of all other causes of death by 15 percent. Those who performed more than 1.33 hours of exercise a week lowered their risk of death by all causes by 13 percent.
Women who participated in team sports in their youth lowered their risk of death by cancer by 14 percent and 10 percent lower for all causes. Finally, women who exercised in their youth and well into their 20s lowered their risk of death by 20 percent.
“In women, adolescent exercise participation, regardless of adult exercise, was associated with reduced risk of cancer and all-cause mortality,” said study author Sarah J. Nechuta.
“Our results support the importance of promoting exercise participation in adolescence to reduce mortality in later life and highlight the critical need for the initiation of disease prevention early in life.”
Nechuta noted that the data about exercise was self-reported, so the potential for error can’t be ignored.
“Further, we only had data on exercise and did not have information on activities related to transportation or occupation,” said Nechuta.
“Future studies with more detailed adolescent physical activity assessments and studies in other populations are needed.”
The findings were published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.