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How Much Exercise Do You Need to Live Longer?
How Much Exercise Do You Need to Live Longer?

Lifestyle

How Much Exercise Do You Need to Live Longer?

Is there a minimum amount of daily activity that still provides health benefits?

Are you not getting enough exercise? If you are trying to lengthen your life, what is the minimum you should aim to do? A recent study from Taiwan helps address this question and is the subject of my communication with you today. We begin with the recommended daily amounts of physical activity before pivoting to the new research findings.

The Department of Health and Human Services of the United States has some astute observations. To get the most health benefits from physical activity, “adults should:

  • Try to accomplish at least 150 to 300 minutes weekly of moderate-intensity aerobic activity. An example is brisk walking.
  • Additional health benefits are associated with more than 300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate-intensity physical activity each week.
  • Do muscle-strengthening activity. Examples include push-ups or weightlifting for at least two times each week.
  • Recognize that physical activity has many health benefits independent of other healthy behaviors, like good nutrition.
  • Move more, and sit less. Sedentary behavior can lead to a higher chance of heart disease, high blood pressure, and all-cause mortality.

We are getting more evidence that some of the health benefits of physical activity are immediate. For example, exercise can quickly help with anxiety, improve your sleep quality, drop your blood pressure, and improve your insulin sensitivity.

There are innumerable long-term benefits, too. For youth, it can improve bone health, fitness, cardiovascular health, and cognition. It can also lower the risk of depression. For adults, You may reduce the risk of many cancer types, including bladder, breast, colon, esophagus, lung, kidney, stomach, and uterus malignancies.

But wait, there’s more! Physical activity reduces your probability of dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease), high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and depression. You may improve your bone health, physical function, quality of life, and all-cause mortality. Not to mention lowering the risk of falls and injuries from the same. Physical activity also reduces the risk of excess weight gain.”

Physical activity and pre-existing health conditions

Many of you suffer from osteoarthritis. The available evidence suggests that physical activity can reduce pain associated with the condition. Exercise can also reduce disease progression for type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, lessen symptoms of anxiety and depression, and help with multiple sclerosis, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and Parkinson’s disease.


Researchers in Taiwan divided 400,000 study participants into one of five categories of exercise:

  • Inactive
  • Low exercise volume
  • Medium exercise volume
  • High exercise volume
  • Very high volume

Here is what they discovered when they compared each group with the inactive one:

  • Compared with those in the inactive group (that is, those who exercised less than 60 minutes per week), individuals in the low volume activity group (who exercised for about 92 minutes each week) had a 14 percent lower risk for all-cause mortality.
  • The advantages of exercising about 92 minutes each week extended to males and females, all ages, and those with cardiovascular disease risk.

For each additional 15 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (beyond the minimum 15 minutes each day) you do, researchers found an associated drop in premature death probability by 4 percent and cancer-related death by 1 percent. The benefits extend to those at risk of cardiovascular disease.


The study is remarkably imperfect. The study authors relied on self-reporting of physical activity. It is an observational study that does not meet the standard required to give high-level evidence.

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Still, the research findings are in line with the available evidence. Even if you do not meet the recommended guidelines, participating in exercise can reduce early mortality risk. At a minimum, try to achieve at least 10 to 15 minutes of moderate activity each day. You can lower your risk of cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes.

More evidence that it doesn’t take much

Researchers sought to determine the years of life gained after age 40 associated with various physical activity levels, both overall and by body mass index groups.

They looked at the association of leisure-time physical activity with mortality. The scientists used follow-up in pooled data from six prospective cohort studies in the US National Cancer Institute Cohort Consortium. The researchers had access to information for 654,827 individuals, ages 21 to 90. Here’s the takeaway message:

Seventy-five minutes per week of moderate physical activity, such as a brisk walk, was associated (not implying causality) with a life expectancy increase of 1.8 years (compared to inactive individuals).

Get 150 minutes weekly, and you may add 3.4 to 4.5 years to your life expectancy. For those individuals who had a normal body mass index (BMI 18.5 to 24.9), active individuals may gain 7.2 years of life compared to someone who is inactive and obese (with a body mass index of at least 35) subjects. For the study, the researchers defined active as 7.5 MET-hours per week.

I know the association is not causality. Repeat: Association is not causality. The study does not say that walk “X” amount and you live “Y” longer; it observes that those who do so live longer. However, there is a growing body of evidence all pointing in the same direction: Physical activity improves health. In addition, exercise studies show potential mechanisms for health improvement: Exercise may slow telomere shortening.

Unfortunately, only one-third of American adults get 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. Now that we better understand the minimum necessary to get health benefits, I hope that we all step it up. Thank you for joining me today.

Source : Medium

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