Well, it’s that time of the year again – no, not Christmas (yet) but time for the Cognate Health team to take part in the annual Run in the Dark on November 11th. Training for the run has focused our minds on exercise, as it tends to do. We all know that sometimes we need to increase our exercise levels for various reasons, such as training for a particular event or as part of a weight loss programme. But what about every week, day in, day out, when we are exercising to stay healthy rather than reach a specific goal, how much exercise do we need exactly?.

How much exercise do we need?

The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that, for substantial health benefits, adults should do at least

  • 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of moderate-intensity (such as brisk walking)

or

  • 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity (such as running), or an equivalent combination of moderate – and vigorous intensity aerobic activity.

Aerobic activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, and preferably, it should be spread throughout the week, not done in one burst of activity.

A recent study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, showed that any amount of leisure-time physical activity is associated with a significantly lower risk of death when compared with no physical activity at all.   Those who did a little, such as those individuals who did less than the amount outlined in the Guidelines, still had a 20% lower mortality risk compared with individuals who did no exercise at all. Those who achieved the minimum recommended physical-activity target had a 31% lower risk of dying compared with the physically inactive.   Those who did a lot more, such as those exceeding the weekly recommendations, had an even larger reduction in mortality risk. Compared with those who did no exercise at all, individuals who performed approximately three to five times the recommended minimum had a near 40% reduction in the risk of dying.

Individuals should engage in a level of physical activity that meets the recommend minimum,” lead investigator Dr Hannah Arem (National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD) said, “but clinicians don’t need to caution their highly active patients about a higher mortality risk.

So get going! Try to achieve the recommended amount of exercise every week – but if you can’t make the target amount, doing something is still better than doing nothing at all.   Grab a 15 minute walk at lunchtime or a 20 minute run after work and you should still see some benefit in the long term.    

The results of the study were published online April 6, 2015 in JAMA Internal Medicine. Reference: Arem H, Moore SC, Patel A. Leisure time physical activity and mortality: a detailed pooled analysis of the dose-response relationship. JAMA Intern Med 2015.

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