What’s the best exercise to fight the effects of a sedentary life and live a long life? For decades Americans have been getting conflicting information, but a new study finds that all types of exercise, whether done in defined exercise periods or in short bursts throughout the day, are all effective in reducing the risk of disease and death.
“For about 30 years, guidelines have suggested that moderate-to-vigorous activity could provide health benefits, but only if you sustained the activity for 10 minutes or more,” said study author Dr. William E. Kraus of the Duke University School of Medicine.
“That flies in the face of public health recommendations, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and parking farther from your destination,” Kraus said. “Those don’t take 10 minutes, so why were they recommended?”
The study found that even brief trips up and down stairs would count toward accumulated exercise minutes and would reduce health risks as long as the intensity reached a moderate or vigorous level.
Researchers defined moderate exertion as brisk walking at a pace that makes it hard to carry a conversation. Increasing that pace to a jog would be vigorous exercise for most people.
Kraus said the findings are good news for most Americans, because most of us get our moderate or vigorous exercise in short spurts, and accumulating 30 minutes in short bursts every day may be more convenient than setting aside a half-hour block of time.
The researchers analyzed data from 4,840 people age 40 and older who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Volunteers wore accelerometers to monitor their physical activity and amount of exertion.
They found that the most dramatic improvements in the overall risk for death and disease can occur with a relatively small amount of effort, and the more you do, the better the benefits.
People who got less than 20 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity each day had the highest risk of death. Those who got 60 minutes per day cut their risk of death by more than half (57 percent), but those who got at least 100 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity every day slashed their risk of death by a whopping 76 percent.
The study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
Numerous studies have found that exercise reduces the risk of a wide range of diseases, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, depression, and diabetes.
A 2017 study at the U.K.’s University of Birmingham found that walking, jogging and running were linked to a lower risk of developing diabetes in individuals who are at high risk.
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