Tall women are more likely to live longer, the results of a new study have shown.

Researchers found that women who were five 5ft 9ins at the age of 40 were 31 per cent more likely to live to the age of 90 compared to those who were 5ft 3ins.

Published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 30-year study shows an important role for exercise in allowing women to live longer, the Daily Telegraph reports.

However, unlike for men, the data indicates it is pointless doing more than one hour a day.

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Those who undertook more than 30 to 60 minutes a day were 21 per cent more likely to reach 90 than those managing 30 minutes or less.

By contrast, the more daily exercise men took, the greater their chances of living to 90 - every 30 minutes extra increased their chances by 5 per cent.

The scientists who carried out the study at Maastricht University say the results show women's longevity is more closely dependent on their body shape than is the case for men.

The research included more than 120,000 men and women who were aged between 55 and 69 when the study began in 1986.

It showed that, overall, 34.4 per cent of women survived to the age of 90, compared to 16.7 per cent of men.

Of these 3,646 men and 4,161 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

Previous research has looked at the associations between weight, physical activity, and reaching old age, however most of these combined both sexes, or focused exclusively on men.