11 minutes of this simple daily exercise cuts risk of early death
Just about 11 minutes of daily moderate physical activity like a brisk walk can lower the risk of early death from diseases such as heart disease, stroke and a number of cancers, according to a new study.
Previous studies have already documented that moderate-intensity physical activity can reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer, and the NHS recommends that adults do at least 150 minutes of such exercise, or about 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity every week.
The new research, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found about a tenth of early deaths could be prevented if people managed at least half the recommended level of physical activity.
Cardiovascular diseases like heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death globally – with nearly 18 million deaths per year in 2019 – while cancers were responsible for over nine million deaths in 2017, said scientists led by those from the University of Cambridge.
Researchers carried out a systematic review, pooling and analysing data from all of the published evidence connecting physical activity, heart disease, cancer and early death.
Scientists looked at results reported in 196 peer-reviewed articles, covering over 30 million participants from 94 large study cohorts.
This is the largest analysis to date of the association between physical activity levels and the risk of heart disease, cancer and early death, according to them.
They found that, outside of work-related physical activity, two out of three people reported activity levels below 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity, while fewer than one in 10 managed over 300 minutes per week.
Additional benefits in terms of reduced risk of disease or early death were marginal when moderate activity beyond 150 minutes per week was done.
But researchers observed that even half this amount came with significant benefits, with 75 minutes per week of moderate activity bringing a 23 per cent lower risk of early death.
“If you are someone who finds the idea of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week a bit daunting, then our findings should be good news,” said Soren Brage from the University of Cambridge.
“Doing some physical activity is better than doing none. This is also a good starting position – if you find that 75 minutes a week is manageable, then you could try stepping it up gradually to the full recommended amount,” Dr Brage said.
Researchers also found that 75 minutes per week of moderate activity was enough to reduce the risk of developing heart disease by 17 per cent and cancer by 7 per cent.
“We know that physical activity, such as walking or cycling, is good for you, especially if you feel it raises your heart rate. But what we’ve found is there are substantial benefits to heart health and reducing your risk of cancer even if you can only manage 10 minutes every day,” study co-author James Woodcock said.
Scientists concluded that if everyone managed at least 75 minutes per week of moderate physical activity, around one in 10 early deaths would be prevented.
“Moderate activity doesn’t have to involve what we normally think of exercise, such as sports or running. Sometimes, replacing some habits is all that is needed,” said Leandro Garcia from Queen’s University, Belfast.
“For example, try to walk or cycle to your work or study place instead of using a car, or engage in active play with your kids or grand kids. Doing activities that you enjoy and that are easy to include in your weekly routine is an excellent way to become more active,” Dr Garcia added.