A Brisk Walk A Day Keeps Premature Deaths Away

two women walkingWhen it comes to reaping the rewards of exercise, you don’t need to be a dedicated runner or sports enthusiast—simply fitting in a brisk walk during your day can make a significant impact on your health. This revelation stems from a comprehensive UK analysis.

Remarkably, dedicating as little as 11 minutes each day to physical activity can potentially prevent one in 10 premature deaths. This discovery is particularly significant given that most individuals struggle to meet the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week.

Thankfully, researchers from the University of Cambridge have emphasized that any amount of exercise is better than none at all. In line with the guidance from the NHS, the ideal goal is to achieve 150-300 minutes of heart-rate-raising physical activity weekly, or alternatively, 75-150 minutes of more vigorous activity that leaves you breathless.

After delving into numerous studies on the benefits of physical activity, the research team concluded that even undertaking half of the recommended exercise time could lead to preventing one in 20 instances of cardiovascular disease and almost one in 30 instances of cancer.

This translates to a mere 75 minutes per week, or just 11 minutes per day, which can be achieved through activities like riding a bike, brisk walking, hiking, dancing, or playing tennis. The key is to sense your body in motion, feel your heart rate increase, without necessarily feeling out of breath, according to Dr. Soren Brage, the lead researcher.

Modest Exercise Lowers Heart Disease Risk

Even this modest amount of exercise can potentially lower the risk of heart disease and stroke by 17%, as well as reduce the risk of cancer by 7%, as suggested by the findings.

Regular exercise not only aids in shedding body fat and maintaining healthy blood pressure, but it also contributes to enhanced overall fitness, better sleep, and improved heart health in the long term.

Furthermore, the benefits of exercise appear to be even more pronounced for certain specific cancers like head and neck, gastric, leukemia, and blood cancers. However, the reduction in risk is slightly lower for cancers such as lung, liver, endometrial, colon, and breast.

Recognizing that not everyone finds it easy to achieve the recommended exercise level, the research provides encouraging news for those who might find the target of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week daunting. Dr. Brage suggests that if 75 minutes per week is manageable, gradually working up to the full recommended amount could be a worthwhile approach.

The research, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, drew insights from nearly 100 extensive studies and close to 200 peer-reviewed articles to compile a comprehensive overview of the evidence.

150 minutes of weekly exercise

The data indicates that if everyone in these studies had engaged in at least 150 minutes of weekly exercise, approximately one in six early deaths could have been prevented.

The researchers highlight that making a few simple changes can go a long way in achieving these health benefits. For instance, opting to walk or bike instead of driving, and incorporating physical activity into playtime with children or grandchildren can be effective strategies.

Ultimately, the most effective way to increase your physical activity is to integrate enjoyable activities into your weekly routine. Additionally, the NHS recommends including muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week, which can encompass activities such as yoga, pilates, weight lifting, intense gardening, or even carrying heavy shopping bags.

Incorporating these small but impactful changes can contribute to a healthier and more vibrant life, highlighting that you don’t need to be a professional athlete to experience the transformative effects of exercise.

Garcia, L, Pearce, M, Abbas, A, Mok, A & Strain, T et al. Non-occupational physical activity and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mortality outcomes: a dose response meta-analysis of large prospective studies. British Journal of Sports Medicine; 28 Feb 2023; DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2022-105669

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