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15 minutes of exercise lengthens life

16th August 2011

Researchers in Taiwan say that as little as 15 minutes of exercise daily could lengthen a person's life by three years.

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Writing in The Lancet, the researchers from the National Health Research Institutes, Taiwan, and China Medical University Hospital also found that people who started with 15 minutes tended to get a taste for it, and upped their exercise without further prompting.

While the health benefits of leisure-time physical activity are well documented, the researchers sought to establish whether exercise at levels less than the current minimum recommendation still carried benefits.

Current guidelines suggest that people exercise a minimum of 150 minutes across a week, which adds up to 30 minutes' exercise daily.

Researchers set out to assess the health benefits of a range of volumes of physical activity in a Taiwanese population.

Their study followed more than 400,000 people, roughly evenly divided by gender, all of whom submitted to a standard medical screening at the start of the study.

The study, which ran from 1996 to 2008, followed up on participants, who reported weekly exercise in a self-administered questionnaire.

On this basis, participants were divided into five categories: inactive, or low, medium, high, or very high activity.

Researchers then calculated mortality risk and life expectancy for each group.

Surprisingly, those who only exercised for around 15 minutes a day still had a 14% reduction in mortality risk compared with those who did no activity at all.

They also boasted a three-year longer life expectancy.

Each 15 minute exercise period on top of that resulted in a 4% reduction in mortality risk from all causes, and in a 1% risk reduction for cancer-linked mortality.

People who did no exercise were 17% more likely to die prematurely from any cause compared with those who did just 15 minutes of exercise daily.

They concluded that as little as 15 minutes a day, or 90 minutes of exercise a week, could be of benefit, even to people who were already at risk of cardiovascular disease.

According to UK government guidelines, people should aim to get 150 minutes of exercise weekly, even if some of the exercise sessions only last 10 minutes.

However, the Taiwanese study suggests that a minimum daily exercise session of 15 minutes is necessary to see any health benefit, experts said.

 

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