It’s a promised “return on investment” that, if it involved money, would get folks arrested for running a Ponzi scheme. But, here’s the newest science-based facts: 15 minutes a day or 92 minutes per week of mild to moderate exercise extended lifespan by three years compared to inactivity.
Those were the results of a twelve year study of 416,175 Taiwanese and reported by senior author Xifeng Wu, MD, PhD, professor and chair of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center Department of Epidemiology. “Exercising at very light levels reduce deaths from any cause by 14 percent,” reported Dr. Xifeng. “The benefits of exercise appear to be significant even without reacting the recommended 150 minutes per week based on results of previous research.”
Lead author Chi-Pang Wen, MD of the National Health Research Institutes of Taiwan, and colleagues found that a person’s risk of death from any cause decreased by four percent for every additional 15 minutes of exercise up to 100 minutes a day over the course of the study and exercising for 30 minutes a day added about four years to life expectancy – regardless of age group, gender or risk of cardiovascular disease.
At onset, study participants completed a questionnaire covering their medical history of lifestyle information. They characterized their weekly physical activity for the previous month by intensity – light (walking), moderate (brisk walking), vigorous (jogging) or high vigorous (running) – and time. Participants also characterized their physical activity at work – sedentary to hard physical labor. Those who reported less than one hour a week of leisure time physical activity – 54 percent – were classified in as inactive, while others received ratings of low, medium, high or very high based on duration and intensity of their exercise.
The researchers also analyzed thirteen other variables: age, sex, education level, physical labor at work, smoking, alcohol use, fasting blood sugar, systolic blood pressure, total cholesterol, body mass index, diabetes, hypertension and history of cancer. Those who engaged in low-volume exercise had lower death rates than inactive people – regardless of age, gender, health status, tobacco use, alcohol consumption or cardiovascular disease risk.
At present, the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week – a guideline met by only one-third of U.S. adults. While the study considered only Taiwanese participants, the findings of reduced mortality through even moderately intense exercise are likely to hold true for other populations, said Wu, even though the amount of time spent or workout intensity required for a health benefit might differ. “These findings can stimulate people to exercise as much as they can and to not be frustrated that they can’t reach the 30 minutes per day guideline,” said Wu.
The exercise project was funded by the Taiwan Department of Health Clinical Trial and Research Center of Excellence and the Taiwan National Health Research Institutes.
Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.