(Health Secrets) Everyone knows exercise is good for their health, but if the thought of long hours at the gym are putting you off there’s good news. A study from Taiwan has shown that just 15 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per day can be enough to increase your life expectancy by three years.
The study, undertaken by the National Health Research Institute in Taiwan and the China Medical University Hospital, has been published in The Lancet. It assessed more than 400,000 participants over eight years in Taiwan. Each participant completed a questionnaire related to their medical history and lifestyle, as well as the regularity and intensity of exercise they took part in on a weekly basis. The participants were split into five groups:
The inactive group that did no exercise at all
The low volume group that did an average of 90 minutes per week of light exercise
The medium volume group that did an average of 220 minutes per week of light to moderate exercise
The high volume group that did an average of 360 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise
The very high volume group that did an average of 520 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise
What did the study show?
After eight years, the researchers checked to see how many of the participants in the study had died of any cause, and more specifically, how many had died of cancer. They discovered that the participants in the inactive group were the most likely to have died of any cause over the course of the study, and they compared the results of the other groups with these.
Compared with the inactive group:
- The low volume group were 14% less likely to die
- The medium volume group were 20% less likely to die
- The high volume group were 29% less likely to die
- The very high volume group were 35% less likely to die
When the results were assessed in relation to cancer, it seemed that physical activity still played a role in reducing the risk of death from cancer, but that this trend was not as marked as with death from any cause, perhaps indicating that exercise has a slightly higher impact on diseases such as stroke and heart disease than on cancer. The low volume, medium volume, high volume and very high volume groups were respectively 10%, 15%, 15% and 22% less likely to die from cancer than the inactive group.
Overall researchers revealed that each additional 15 minutes of exercise per day led to a 4% reduction in death from any cause, and a 1% reduction in death from cancer. This only applied up to a maximum of 100 minutes per day, above which the benefits remained unchanged.
The research showed that even a low level of exercise such as 90 minutes per week has an impact on life expectancy, with women in the low volume group increasing their life expectancy by 3.1 years and men in the low volume group increasing theirs by 2.55 years in comparison with the inactive group.
However, it does also indicate that the more active you are, the longer your life expectancy will be. The suggestion is to start with a minimum of 15 minutes per day, or around 90 minutes per week, and gradually build up. Most people who start exercising really enjoy it and will increase the time they spend doing it naturally.
Inactivity can shorten your life
This study mirrors the finding of another study undertaken by the University of Queensland in Australia, and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. That study suggested that watching six hours of television every day could reduce your lifespan by five years.
This was a little misleading, as it was the sedentary lifestyle associated with high levels of television watching rather than the television watching itself which caused the reduction in lifespan, but it does illustrate the point that leading a sedentary lifestyle can increase your risk of death.
How to get active
Starting an exercise program can be very daunting if you don’t currently do any exercise, but 15 minutes per day is a very short amount of time, and you don’t have to go running or head to the gym if you don’t want to. Light to moderate exercise such as a brisk walk, some active gardening, a fun dance class, or a short swim, can be very beneficial and can be a great way to get you moving again.
Finding something you enjoy will give you the motivation to carry on, and finding someone to exercise with can often help you to keep it up. Once you begin to move more you will feel the benefits, and that should be all the incentive you need to keep going.