According to a team of researchers led by the University of Cambridge, managing at least half of the recommended level of physical activity could prevent one in ten early deaths.

The study is published a study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. It shows that just 11 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per day (75 minutes per week) could reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer.

Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death globally, responsible for 17.9 million deaths in 2019, followed by cancer, with 9.6 million deaths in 2017. Moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking, is known to lower the risk of these diseases. The NHS currently recommends that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week.

Researchers from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to investigate the amount of physical activity required to positively impact chronic diseases and premature death. They analysed 196 peer-reviewed articles, reporting results on more than 30 million participants from 94 large study cohorts, making this the most extensive analysis to date on the relationship between physical activity levels and the risk of heart disease, cancer, and premature death.

According to the researchers, only one-third of individuals reported engaging in at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity outside of work. Fewer than one in ten individuals achieved more than 300 minutes per week.

The study revealed that the extra benefits of decreased risk of chronic diseases or premature death were minimal beyond 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity. However, even half of this amount had notable advantages: attaining 75 min per week of moderate-intensity activity resulted in a 23% lower risk of early death.

According to the study, doing some physical activity is better than doing none. Even 75 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week is a good starting point; gradually stepping it up to the recommended amount could be a feasible approach.

A moderate-intensity physical activity of 75 minutes per week reduced the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 17% and cancer by 7%. 

The researchers determined that if all study participants had engaged in at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity, approximately 16% of early deaths could have been prevented. In addition, 11% of cases of cardiovascular disease and 5% of cancer cases could have been prevented.

Hence, as per the researchers, if everyone did at least 75 minutes per week, approximately one in ten early deaths, one in twenty cases of cardiovascular disease, and nearly one in thirty cases of cancer could be prevented.

Image Credit: iStock 

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CVD, Premature Death Only 11 Minutes of Activity Lowers Risk of CVD, Premature Death