Just 11 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity aerobic activity per day could lower your risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease or premature death, a large new study has found.
Aerobic activities include walking, dancing, running, jogging, cycling and swimming. You can gauge the intensity level of an activity by your heart rate and how hard you’re breathing as you move. Generally, being able to talk but not sing during an activity would make it moderate intensity. Vigorous intensity is marked by the inability to carry on a conversation.
Higher levels of physical activity have been associated with lower rates of premature death and chronic disease, according to past research. But how the risk levels for these outcomes are affected by the amount of exercise someone gets has been more difficult to determine. To explore this impact, scientists largely from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom looked at data from 196 studies, amounting to more than 30 million adult participants who were followed for 10 years on average.
The results of this latest study were published Tuesday in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. The study mainly focused on participants who had done the minimum recommended amount of 150 minutes of exercise per week, or 22 minutes per day. Compared with inactive participants, adults who had done 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic physical activity per week had a 31% lower risk of dying from any cause, a 29% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease and a 15% lower risk of dying from cancer.
The same amount of exercise was linked with a 27% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and 12% lower risk when it came to cancer. Even people who got just half the minimum recommended amount of physical activity benefited. Accumulating 75 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week — about 11 minutes of activity per day — was associated with a 23% lower risk of early death. Getting active for 75 minutes on a weekly basis was also enough to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 17% and cancer by 7%.
Beyond 150 minutes per week, any additional benefits were smaller. “If you are someone who finds the idea of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week a bit daunting, then our findings should be good news,” said study author Dr. Soren Brage, group leader of the Physical Activity Epidemiology group in the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge, in a news release. “This is also a good starting position — if you find that 75 minutes a week is manageable, then you could try stepping it up gradually to the full recommended amount.”
The authors’ findings affirm the World Health Organization’s position that doing some physical activity is better than doing none, even if you don’t get the recommended amounts of exercise. “One in 10 premature deaths could have been prevented if everyone achieved even half the recommended level of physical activity,” the authors wrote in the study. Additionally, “10.9% and 5.2% of all incident cases of CVD (cardiovascular disease) and cancer would have been prevented.”