A wide-ranging study found that even moderate exercise taken daily reduces early mortality
A wide-ranging study found that even moderate exercise taken daily reduces early mortality by as much as 20 per cent.
Scientists discovered that taking a regular stroll – even when not meeting the minimum levels recommended by UK health chiefs – was still associated with significantly lower mortality when compared to those who are inactive.
And walking just two-and-a-half hours per week was associated with a 20 per cent lower mortality risk, according to the findings published online by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Study leader Dr Alpa Patel, from the American Cancer Society, explained: “Walking has been described as the ‘perfect exercise’ because it is simple, free, convenient, doesn’t require any special equipment or training, and can be done at any age.”
And he warned: “With the near doubling of adults aged 65 and older expected by 2030, clinicians should encourage patients to walk even if less than the recommended amount, especially as they age, for health and longevity.”
In the UK, current public health guidelines recommend adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate – or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity – physical activity per week.
Experts in preventing heart disease – the UK’s biggest killer claiming around 160,000 lives a year – and cancer, stress the importance of regular exercise where possible.
The British Heart Foundation recommends we all stay active, wherever possible.
Around 3,400 cases of cancer in the UK each year could be prevented by keeping active
A spokesman said: “Physical activity can help reduce your risk of heart disease. It can also help you control your weight, reduce blood pressure and cholesterol and improve your mental health – helping you to look and feel great.”
The BHF suggests a ‘10-minute challenge’, which it details on its website and can be done in your own front room, for those who see the 150minute weekly recommendation as daunting.
“If 150 minutes of physical activity a week seems like a lot, don’t worry. You can break it down into ten minute sessions throughout the day and build up from there,” he said.
Cancer Research UK also stressed the importance of physical activity.
A spokesman said: “Around 3,400 cases of cancer in the UK each year could be prevented by keeping active.
“Scientists have shown that low levels of physical activity can increase the risk of certain cancers.
Physical activity can help reduce your risk of heart disease
“Inactive lifestyles can lead to many other health problems. These include diabetes, osteoporosis, stroke and heart disease.”
Walking is the most common type of physical activity, and an increasing number of studies have associated it with lower risk of heart disease, diabetes, as well as breast and colon cancers.
While several papers have linked overall moderate-vigorous physical activity to a reduced risk of death, relatively few have examined associations with walking specifically.
To learn more, researchers in the new study analysed figures from nearly 140,000 participants in the Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort.
Around six per cent of the participants reported no moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity at the start.
Inactive lifestyles can lead to many different health problems
Among the rest, about 95 per cent reported some walking, and nearly half walked as their only form of moderate-vigorous physical activity. But the study found that in total, only half of adults meet the weekly exercise recommendation.
Older adults were even less likely to meet minimum recommendations, with just 42 per cent of people aged 65 to 74 and 28 per cent aged 75 and older achieving the target.
After correcting for other risk factors, including smoking, obesity, and chronic conditions, the study found walking-only for less than two hours per week was associated with lower all-cause mortality compared to no activity.
Meeting the minimum recommendation – 2.5 hours – or going up to as much as five hours a week, through walking-only was associated with a 20 per cent lower mortality risk.
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But exercising any more than this did not change the findings.
Results for those exceeding recommendations through walking-only were similar to those who met recommendations.
Walking-only was most strongly associated with respiratory disease mortality, with around a 35 per cent lower risk comparing more than six hours per week of walking to the least active group.
Walking-only was also associated with about 20 per cent less risk of cardiovascular disease mortality and with about nine per cent less risk of cancer mortality.
Source : EXPRESS