Extra exercise could extend your lifespan, new study suggests
Going beyond the minimum recommended dose of exercise could help you live a longer, healthier life, according to a large study published July 25 in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.
Researchers from the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health looked at data from more than 100,000 participants over 30 years of follow up to compare self-reported exercise habits with risk of dying from any cause during the study.
Activities like walking, weightlifting, and bodyweight workouts all counted as moderate exercise, while vigorous exercise included activities like running, swimming, biking, and aerobics.
Current guidelines from the Department of Health recommend getting at least 150 minutes a week of moderate exercise, 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise, or a combination of both.
The researchers found that study participants who met the minimum guideline were up to 21% less likely to die of any cause during the study than their peers who exercised less.
But more avid athletes had slightly better health outcomes — data suggested participants had a 21 to 23% lower chance of death if they did 150 to 300 minutes a week of vigorous exercise per week.
And extra moderate exercise like walking was even more protective, with 26 to 31% lower risk of death for participants who did 300 to 600 minutes a week.
Previous research has found some types of intense working out, such as marathon and triathlon training, may increase heart health risks, but that wasn't the case in this study. While there wasn't any benefit to more than than six hours a week of intense exercise, or 10 hours a week of moderate exercise, it wasn't linked to any side effects.
However much you're exercising, consistency is key for long-term benefits, according to Dong Hoon Lee, lead author of the study and research associate at Harvard T.H. Chan.
"Our study provides evidence to guide individuals to choose the right amount and intensity of physical activity over their lifetime to maintain their overall health," Lee said in a press release.
One limitation of the study is that participants were mostly white, and pulled from two large surveys of nurses and other medical professionals, so it's not clear if the findings may apply to other demographics.
Extensive previous research backs up the benefits of both exercise for health in a myriad of ways, from boosting mood and improving heart health, to building muscle and preventing age-related decline. For best results, include a mix of cardio and strength training in your routine.
If you struggle to find time to exercise during the week, a recent study found getting more exercise during the weekend may be just as beneficial for your health as working out on weekdays.