Completing just 30 minutes of exercise five days a week could help you live longer and potentially prevent one in 12 deaths worldwide.
That’s according to a new global study published in The Lancet journal, which shows physical activity is associated with a lower risk of premature mortality and heart disease.
The researchers tracked 130,000 people in 17 countries in order to assess the affects of exercise on health.
Reflecting on the research, experts have said that completing the World Health Organisation’s recommendation of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week could provide a cost-effective way of improving health globally.
The researchers, from the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, wanted to track the health and fitness of people from different income background, so split participants into different bands.
The study included participants from three high-income countries (Canada, Sweden, United Arab Emirates), seven upper-middle-income countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Poland, Turkey, Malaysia, South Africa), three lower-
middle-income countries (China, Colombia, Iran), and four low-income-countries (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Zimbabwe).
At the start of the experiment, participants were asked to record their level of physical activity via a questionnaire, including the type of physical activity they do and how often they do it.
During follow ups that occurred after six and nine years, the researchers recorded rates of mortality among the group, with close analysis of deaths relating to heart disease and stroke.
They concluded that: “Participating in physical activity at or above the physical activity guidelines was associated with significantly lower rates of outcomes compared with those participants not meeting the physical activity guidelines.”
The researchers also highlighted that higher physical activity was associated with lower risk of heart disease and mortality in high-income, middle-income, and low-income countries. Both recreational and non-recreational physical activity were associated with benefits.
Commenting on the findings, Professor Metin Avkiran, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “We already know from previous research that physical inactivity increases people’s risk of heart disease and directly contributes to one in six deaths.
“This study adds to that evidence, and also indicates that the benefits of regular exercise in lowering heart disease risk and prolonging life apply across countries with very different socioeconomic circumstances.
“In an age where we’re living increasingly busy but often sedentary lives in the west, weaving physical activity into our daily routines has never been more important, not only to improve our physical health but also overall wellbeing. Increased physical activity could have an even greater beneficial impact in lower income countries, due to its low its cost and the high incidence of heart disease in those countries.”
World Health Organisation physical activity recommendations include:
In adults aged 18-64, physical activity includes leisure time physical activity, transportation (e.g. walking or cycling), occupational (i.e. work), household chores, play, games, sports or planned exercise, in the context of daily, family, and community activities. The recommendations in order to improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, bone health, reduce the risk of NCDs and depression are:
1. Adults aged 18–64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of moderate - and vigorous-intensity activity.
2. Aerobic activity should be performed in bouts of at least 10 minutes duration.
3. For additional health benefits, adults should increase their moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes per week, or engage in 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, or an equivalent combination of moderate - and vigorous-intensity activity.
4. Muscle-strengthening activities should be done involving major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.