In Brief

Walking for health: why even a stroll can make a difference

One walk a day keeps the doctor away

One slow walk a day can increase life expectancy, research has found.

A new study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has shown that exercise of any intensity helps lower the risk of death.

Research found that any level of physical activity was associated with significantly increased life expectancy. Even light activity like hoovering, cooking dinner or washing the dishes has a benefit, reports The Independent.

“It is important for elderly people, who might not be able to do much moderate-intensity activity, that just moving around and doing light-intensity [activity] [will have] strong effects and is beneficial,” said professor Ulf Ekelund, author of the study.

The study followed the activity and health of 36,383 participants aged 40 and above. Researchers found that “more than 9.5 hours of daily sedentary behaviour, excluding sleeping time, was associated with a statistically significant increased risk of death.”

Mortality fell steeply and kept falling the more active participants were, only hitting a plateau after five active hours per day.

And the reverse was also true: “A similarly steep decrease in mortality occurred with increasing duration of light physical activity up to a plateau of about 300 minutes per day,” says the study.

Those who were active for 258 minutes a day had a 40% lower risk of death than those active for 200 minutes. And the risk fell even further for participants with 308 active minutes, which resulted in a 56% lower risk.

The study also found that a short stint of high-intensity exercise can yield the same benefits as a longer, lower-intensity workout. 

Those who managed roughly six minutes' vigorous exercise a day had a 36% lower risk of death than people doing just 90 seconds a day. And those doing 38 minutes' hard exercise a day had a 48% lower risk of death, says the The Guardian.

There were some limitations with the study; it only looked at adults who were middle-aged and older, mostly from the US and Europe.

According to Public Health England, around 24,000 of deaths a year in England are people under 75, and 80% of these are preventable – equivalent to around 50 per day, says the Independent.

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