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Apr 24, 2014

Some Physical Activity is Better Than None

Adults engaging in any level of regular physical activity have lower risk of death compared to those who get no exercise, according to research.

Getting some physical activity is better than none, according to research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggesting that even small amounts of physical activity can reduce risk of death.

Utilizing data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers measured the physical activity level of more than 10,500 Americans between 1999 and 2004. After following participants for up to five years, researchers compared physical activity levels with risk of death during the follow-up period. Investigators wondered if only those meeting current exercise recommendations (at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week) would have a lower risk of death compared to those who engaged in some or no regular physical activity.

Among the 10,535 participants, there were a total of 665 deaths during the five-year study period. Not surprisingly, participants who met current exercise guidelines had the lowest risk of death compared to those who were less active. But getting some physical activity was better than none, according to findings. Participants meeting exercise guidelines had 36% lower risk of death and those who were active but didn’t quite meet guidelines had 28% lower risk of death compared to subjects who got no exercise, whatsoever. And among adults who were active but didn’t meet current guidelines, those who did muscle-strengthening activities like sit-ups had 44% lower risk of death than those who didn’t.

The take home message? When it comes to physical activity, we should get rid of the “all-or-nothing” mentality. Getting some physical activity is always better than none and according to this study, any amount of physical activity can help you live a longer life. Of course, meeting current guidelines—two-and-a-half hours a week of physical activity a week and two days a week of muscle-strengthening activities—will help you achieve the greatest health benefits and could reduce risk of death by one-third. But getting even some regular physical activity, especially combined with muscle-strengthening activities, will also help improve your health and extend your life.

Questions for You to Consider

  • What are muscle-strengthening activities?
  • Muscle-strengthening activities are an important part of physical activity. Current guidelines recommend that adults of all ages get at least two days a week of muscle-strengthening activities, such as lifting weights, working with resistance bands and doing sit-ups. Heavy gardening (digging, shoveling, etc) and yoga are also considered muscle-strengthening activities, which can boost heart health.
  • How much exercise do I need?
  • Regular physical activity is important for both children and adults. According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans:

    • Children and adolescents should get 60 minutes or more of physical activity daily.
    • Optimum exercise levels for adults includes:
      • 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise (or a combination of the two) each week.
      • Activity spread across the week with periods of aerobic exercise of at least 10 minutes at a time.
      • Muscle strengthening activities 2 or more days a week.

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