05/15/2015 12:29 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Elderly Who Exercise 30 Minutes A Day Live 5 Years Longer, Study Finds

YOSHIKAZU TSUNO via Getty Images

Regular exercise packs as great a punch as quitting smoking when it comes to life expectancy, according to researchers in Norway.

The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, called for more campaigns to encourage greater fitness in older people.

The Oslo University Hospital study tracked more than 14,000 men who were born between 1923 and 1932. An analysis that began in 2000 looked at about 6,000 of the men still living, which resulted in the new findings. Researchers found that those who only exercised for less than an hour a week showed no increase in life expectancy. But those who exercised for the equivalent of three hours a week were 40 percent less likely to have died during the study.

The report said: "Even when men were 73 years of age on average at start of follow-up, active persons had five years longer expected lifetime than the sedentary." And it added that exercising was as "beneficial as smoking cessation" at reducing deaths.

The report did not look at how active people were earlier in their lives, the BBC noted in its report on the study.

Researchers have been linking exercise levels to longevity for awhile now. In 2013, a team in Australia found similar results to those coming from the Norway study. In that study, also published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers said "Sustained physical activity is associated with improved survival and healthy aging in older men. Vigorous physical activity seems to promote healthy ageing and should be encouraged when safe and feasible."

So, do we exercise as much as we should? Not hardly.

According to the National Senior Games website, only 12 percent of 55- to 64-year-olds run or jog and just 9 percent swim on a regular basis. Only 25 percent of boomers say they do the recommended level of aerobic exercise and 37 percent do no strength training at all.

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