Women who are tall and slim are more likely to live until the age of 90, a new study has revealed.
The findings, published online by the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, did also show that physical activity is linked to longer lifespans in both sexes.
But the more time men spend being physically active every day, the longer their lifespan, whereas the optimum amount for women was 60 minutes.
Although average life expectancy has risen over the past few decades, it has recently started to plateau in some developed nations.
Increasing levels of obesity and physical inactivity are believed to be behind the trend.
Previous research has looked at the associations between weight body mass index, physical activity, and reaching old age, but most studies have combined both sexes, or focused exclusively on men.
Women and men’s lifespans differ, which may be influenced by factors such as hormones, genes and lifestyle.
To explore these differences further, the researchers analysed data from the Netherlands Cohort Study, which included more than 120,000 men and women aged between 55 and 69 when it began in 1986.
They wanted to see if there were any links between height, weight, leisure time physical activity, and the likelihood of reaching the age of 90 and if there were any differences between men and women.
More than 7,800 men and women, aged between 68 and 70, provided detailed information in 1986 on their current weight, height, weight when aged 20, and their leisure time physical activity.
The details included activities such as gardening, dog walking, DIY, walking or cycling to work, and recreational sports, which were grouped into categories of daily quotas – less than 30 minutes, 30 to 60 minutes, and 90 minutes or more.
Participants were then monitored until death or the age of 90, whichever came first.
The researchers considered potentially influential factors, such as whether the participants were current or former smokers, how much they drank, their educational attainment, and usual energy intake.
Some 433 men,16.7 per cent, and 944 women, 34.4 per cent, survived to the age of 90.
Women who were still alive by this age were, on average taller, had weighed less at the start of the study, and had put on less weight since the age of 20 than those who were shorter and heavier.
What’s more, women who were more than 5ft9 in height were 31 per cent more likely to reach 90 than women less than 5ft3.
The research showed no such links were seen among the men.
Lead researcher Lloyd Brandts, a PhD candidate at Maastricht University Medical Centre in Holland, said: “In men, a significant linear positive dose-response relationship was found between increasing non-occupational physical activity and the chance of reaching longevity.
“In women, a significantly inverse U-shaped relationship was found between non-occupational physical activity and longevity, with the highest chance of reaching longevity around 60 minutes of non-occupational physical activity per day.
“In our study, height was positively associated with the chance of reaching longevity in women but not in men. In epidemiological studies, height is often positively associated with several types of cancer and inversely associated with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, pulmonary disease and mortality risk in both men and women.
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