Walking briskly just 11 minutes a day could stop 10% of early deaths: Study
An 11-minute brisk walk every day could prevent one in 10 premature deaths worldwide, according to the largest ever study of its kind.
This equates to 75 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week, half the weekly 150 minutes recommended by the NHS.
Brisk walking, dancing, riding a bike, playing tennis or hiking can all substantially cut the risks of early death, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers, including those of the head and neck and myeloid leukaemia, Cambridge University experts have found.
Globally, one in 10 early deaths could be avoided if everyone met just half the recommended weekly target of 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity, the largest ever pooled data analysis suggests. The results were published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Moderate-intensity physical activity is defined as activity that raises the heart rate and makes people breathe faster, but not so fast they cannot speak.
“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 Dr Søren Brage, of Cambridge’s Medical Research Council (MRC) epidemiology unit. “Doing some physical activity is better than doing none. 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.”
Researchers looked at 196 peer-reviewed articles, covering more than 30 million participants from 94 large study cohorts. They then examined the association between levels of physical activity and the risk of heart disease, cancer and early death.
Accumulating 75 minutes a week of moderate intensity activity lowed the risk of early death by 23%, they found. It was also enough to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 17% and cancer by 7%.
“We know that physical activity, such as walking or cycling, is good for you, especially if you feel it raises your heart rate,” said Prof James Woodcock, also of Cambridge University. “But what we’ve found is there are substantial benefits to heart health and reducing your risk of cancer even if you can only manage 10 minutes every day.”
The researchers calculated that if everyone in the studies had done the equivalent of at least 150 minutes a week of moderate activity, about one in six (16%) early deaths would have been prevented.
But even if everyone had managed at least 75 minutes a week, about one in 10 (10%) early deaths would have been prevented, the research found.
Dr Leandro Garcia, of Queen’s University Belfast, emphasised that moderate activity did not have to involve what people normally thought of as exercise, such as sports or running. “For example, try to walk or cycle to your work or study place instead of using a car, or engage in active play with your kids or grandkids,” he said.
“Doing activities that you enjoy and that are easy to include in your weekly routine is an excellent way to become more active.”