Study: How walking 11 minutes a day prevents deaths

Study movement 11 minutes
Photo: CC0 Public Domain – unsplash/ jacek dylag

Exercise is healthy – but how much should you integrate into everyday life? A new analysis has evaluated earlier exercise studies and comes to the conclusion that even a little exercise can reduce the risk of illness and prevent death.

How much exercise does it take to stay healthy? According to an analysis by the University of Cambridge, you don’t have to invest that much time. 11 minutes of exercise a day is said to be enough to prevent one in ten premature deaths. The meta-study was published in February in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Analysis re-evaluates studies on exercise

For the analysis, researchers from Cambridge examined and re-evaluated 94 cohort studies on the benefits of exercise as well as numerous specialist articles. They only used studies with over 10,000 adult participants, whose exercise was divided into different categories. The studies also had to show, among other things, how high the risk of death and the risk of certain diseases was for test subjects. The identified studies included data from over 30 million subjects, which were translated into a common metric. The researchers took into account, among other things, the weight and energy consumption of the test subjects. In addition, they created uniform categories for the duration and type of physical activity, which was described in the studies.

“One in 10 premature deaths could have been prevented”

The researchers re-evaluated the collected data. The result: According to the analysis, one in six premature deaths could be prevented – if all study participants exercised at least 150 minutes a week. That equates to 21 minutes a day – this amount of exercise is also recommended by the UK Health Service (NHS). According to the researchers, 150 to 300 minutes of moderate activity brings “maximum benefit.” This involves activities that increase the heart rate – for example cycling, brisk walking, hiking, dancing or playing tennis.

But even half as much exercise can provide a “significant health benefit”. 75 minutes of exercise per week (or 11 minutes per day) is said to prevent one in 20 cases of cardiovascular disease and almost one in 30 cases of cancer. In general, there is a lower risk of death. “One in 10 premature deaths could have been prevented if everyone had achieved even half the recommended level of physical activity,” the researchers conclude.

Integrate more movement into everyday life

Why is sport so healthy? Exercise stimulates the muscles, heart and immune system, explains the Federal Ministry of Health on its website. It also relieves stress and tension. Regular exercise can also increase life expectancy.

The new meta-study confirms the positive effect of regular exercise. But not everyone finds it easy to integrate enough sport into everyday life. For a study, the Techniker Krankenkasse (TK) asked 1706 people about their exercise habits. 45 percent stated that they seldom exercised or did not exercise at all. 42 percent work while sitting, so they move little even during working hours. What to do?

Director of Studies Dr. Soren Brage shares tips with BBC. 2.5 hours of exercise per week may seem discouraging to some people. But: “If you think 75 minutes a week is feasible, you can try to gradually increase to the full recommended amount,” recommends the researcher. Because the results of the meta-analysis indicate that even less physical activity can have a great positive influence. The researchers advise changing habits and, for example, walking or cycling to work or to go shopping instead of using the car.

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