According to recent research based at the University of Cambridge, even a small amount of physical activity can make you live longer.

Although this may not be new news to some people, the results of this paper are the strongest evidence to date that not only will doing regular physical activity make you live longer, but physical inactivity (ie: not doing any physical activity at all) could significantly decrease life expectancy.

334,161 apparently healthy people (anybody with any existing co-morbities, such as stroke, heart attack, etc. were excluded) were assessed from 10 countries including France, Germany, Spain and the UK.

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They asked the participants how much physical activity they did and grouped them into four categories: inactive, moderately inactive, moderately active, and active. They did this by asking the participants about how active they were in their jobs and their spare time over the previous year, including how much sport they did, if any.

The study then kept tabs on the participants over the next decade and recorded any deaths via death certificates and doctors’ reports.

The most interesting finding of the study was that there were 20-30% less deaths in the moderately inactive group when compared with the inactive group, meaning that even a small amount of activity per day can significantly increase life expectancy.

The figure was more in the region of 40% when the active groups were compared with the inactive groups, lending more weight to the notion that more activity can effectively make you live longer. Interestingly, the results were the same whether the participants were of normal bodyweight, overweight, or obese, meaning that everybody could benefit from changing from an inactive to an active lifestyle.

At the moment the UK recommended amount of daily activity is about 20-30mins of brisk walking and a couple of strength training sessions per week, however this recent research suggests that even a 20minute brisk walk per day is likely to increase life expectancy significantly, especially if you do not do much physical activity at the moment.

It is worth noting that this study did not find that the cause of potential early death to be lack of physical activity, it just found a strong association between death rates and lack of physical activity.

This is not to say that the results of this study are not to be considered seriously; in fact, the sheer amount of people studied in this paper means that the study does have a lot of power with the message it is trying to say (i.e. if the study was done on 10 people, there is a much higher chance of the results maybe happening by chance, but because it was one on over a quarter of a million people, the chances of it all being chance is very slim).

What does this all mean – can lack of exercise REALLY kill you sooner?

Can lack of exercise REALLY kill you sooner This study tells all2

What this all means is people who are inactive and sedentary are far less likely to live a long life, and only the equivalent of a brisk walk for 20 mins per day can change that (it doesn’t even need to be a 20min brisk walk, 20mins of gardening or housework will suffice).

The 20 minutes doesn’t even have to be in one go, it can be spread into any length segments (eg. 4 x 5mins times throughout the day), which can make the thought of doing 20 minutes more manageable for some people.

The health benefits are also more than living longer: studies have found that increasing physical activity will also decrease your chance of stroke, cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks and angina and type 2 diabetes, meaning that not only will you potentially live longer, you are more likely to live a healthy life too!

The original academic paper is available for free at: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2015/01/14/ajcn.114.100065.full.pdf+html

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