For decades now, the health hazards of puffing away on a cigarette have been well documented. Not only can smoking cause a raft of serious diseases, tobacco is also very expensive, and highly addictive – it's very difficult to break the habit.

A new study, though, has found that as little as half an hour's exercise each day can be just as good for your overall health as giving up smoking. The research, carried out by academics at the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, revealed that 30 minutes of vigorous exercise, such as cycling, could even increase life expectancy by five years.These findings will be of great interest to that keep a regime of active living.

The wide-ranging study, which lasted for 11 years, analysed the activities of 5,700 Norwegian males ages between 68 and 77. It found that those who managed to squeeze in three hours of exercise per week lived for an incredible five years longer than the men who kept a sedentary lifestyle. 

Additionally, it was discovered that the more exercise that the study's participants partook in, the greater the benefits – but working out even for just one hour a week lent a significant improvement to health.

"Not many pills can bring down total mortality by 30-40 per cent. That is a major achievement," said Professor Ingar Holme, who led the study.

"Even in this elderly cohort, the response to exercise that we saw added up to years added onto to your life. 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. Increased physical activity was as beneficial as smoking cessation in reducing all-cause mortality," he concluded.

The intriguing study will come as welcome news to those in senior living, especially if they are already smoke-free and maintaining a regular routine of exercise.

How a little exercise can lend health benefits just as much as quitting smoking