New studies find light physical activity reduces risk of early death

Moderate activity includes brisk walking, vacuuming, or mowing the lawn, and vigorous activity includes jogging and activities such as carrying heavy loads or digging.-(Reuters. pic)

NORWAY: New studies by researchers at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences in Oslo, Norway, analysed data from eight high-quality studies which included a total of 36,383 adults aged at least 40 years and with an average age of 62.

In the studies, physical activity was measured with accelerometers, a wearable device that tracks the amount and intensity of activity during waking hours, and the data used to categorise the participants into groups depending on the intensity of their activity.

The findings, published by The BMJ today, showed that after taking into account potentially influential factors, any level of physical activity, regardless of intensity, was associated with a substantially lower risk of death.

Moreover, increasing time spent active was associated with a sharp decrease in the number of deaths, even when the activity was of light intensity.

In contrast, spending a large portion of the day being sedentary, 9.5 hours or more, was associated with a statistically significant increased risk of death, with the team finding approximately five times more deaths among inactive participants compared with those who were most active.

The findings are in line with previous studies which have repeatedly suggested that sedentary behaviour has a negative effect on health and is linked to premature death, while keeping active can increase the chance of living a longer, and healthier, life.

Guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week. Examples of light intensity activity includes walking slowly or light tasks such as cooking or washing dishes. Moderate activity includes brisk walking, vacuuming, or mowing the lawn, and vigorous activity includes jogging and activities such as carrying heavy loads or digging.

The researchers note that the study does have some limitations. For example, as all participants were at least 40 years old, the findings may not be applicable to younger people. However, the sample size was large and using accelerometers to measure activity is more accurate than relying on self-reporting from participants.

They conclude that the results suggest that we should “sit less and move more and more often,” adding that “developing ways to limit sedentary time and increase activity at any level could considerably improve health and reduce mortality.”