How much should you exercise to live longer?


We all know that exercise is good for us, and current government guidelines state that we should indulge in around 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week.

But exercise is a little like a see-saw, too much and you can crash and burn, as it puts excess strain on muscles, joints and organs, too little and your efforts are ineffective.

Like the see-saw, there is a sweet spot, right in the middle where it all balances. This spot is where just the right amount of exercise produces results without overdoing it, yet still has the desired effect.

Up until now, scientists have not been able to tell us how much exercise can prolong our lives, but thankfully, a major study has shed some light.

The study was published last week in JAMA Internal Medicine, and offered insight into the type of exercise that helps to add years to our lives.

In the study, scientists at the National Cancer Institute, Harvard University and other institutions took data regarding people’s exercising habits from six other health studies that were ongoing.

With this pooled data, they ended up with information from more than 661,000 adults, the majority of them middle-aged.

The scientists then divided the adults using this data into their exercise habits, from those who did none, to those who worked out the most.  They then looked at the death records of the group going back 14 years.

  • They found that those who did no exercise were at a higher risk of death.
  • Those who did under the bare minimum lowered their risk by 20 per cent.
  • Those who met government guidelines of 150 minutes a week had a 31 per cent less risk of dying.

The sweet spot however, was those who worked out three times the government’s recommended amount, at 450 minutes per week, and just by moderate walking. These people reduced their risk of premature dying by 39 percent, compared to those who never exercised.

After this the benefits plateaued, but they never really declined that significantly for people to stop exercising. Those who participated in ten times more than government guidelines gained the same reduction as those that meet the guidelines. They did not gain any more health benefits for all the extra blood, sweat and tears they put in.

Despite the study using a large amount of data, it did rely on people’s own recollections of their exercise routines. So people could have exaggerated their experiences, in order to impress the researchers.

However, as the study was so large, the data appears to be consistent. And senior researcher Klaus Gebel’s message is clear.

Anyone who is capable of some moderate exercise should try to “reach at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week and have around 20 to 30 minutes of that be vigorous activity,” he said.

Source: New York Times

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