Sufficient physical activity every week lowers risk of death

Meeting guidelines on how much physical activity one should do each week could reduce the risk of an early death, according to new research. (Rawpixel pic)

New research has found that individuals who meet physical activity guidelines may have a lower risk of death.

Carried out by an international team of researchers, the new study looked at 479,856 US adults aged 18 to 85 years old who took part in the National Health Interview Surveys from 1997 to 2014.

The participants were asked to report how much of their leisure time each week was spent doing aerobic physical activity and muscle strengthening activity to see whether they met US guidelines.

These guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week, or at least 75 minutes of vigorous intensity aerobic activity per week, and moderate intensity or higher intensity muscle strengthening activity on at least two days per week.

The researchers also looked at national death records over an average of nearly nine years to investigate the rates of death from any cause, as well as from eight specific causes including cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancer, chronic lower respiratory tract diseases, accidents and injuries, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.

The findings, published by “The BMJ” today, showed that during the study, only 16% of the participants fully met the recommended activity levels.

Moreover, those who did fully meet the guidelines for both muscle strengthening and aerobic activities benefited from a 40% reduced risk of death from any cause.

Compared with participants who did not meet the recommended activity levels, those who met the recommended amounts of aerobic activity had a 29% lower risk of death from any cause and a reduced risk of death from all of the eight specific causes included in the study, while those who did a sufficient amount of muscle strengthening activity every week had an 11% lower risk of death from any cause and a reduced risk of death from three of the causes: CVD, cancer and chronic lower respiratory tract disease.

The benefits were also similar for those who did 150 minutes of light to moderate intensity and those who did 75 minutes of vigorous intensity, although they were slightly higher for those who did more vigorous activities.

The researchers point out that as an observational study, they can’t establish a cause-and-effect relationship.

They also relied on the participants’ self-reports of their activity levels, which can be prone to errors.

However, they concluded that, “Our findings support that the physical activity levels recommended in the 2018 physical activity guidelines for Americans provide important survival benefits.

“Additionally, in accordance with the guidelines, more physical activity than the minimum recommendation could provide greater health benefits.”