- Physical activities in the form of cycling, walking, gardening and housework incorporated into daily routine schedule, are shown to have proven health benefits
- WHO recommends an activity level of 600 MET minutes a week
- Recent research has shown that, activity at the rate of 3000-4000 MET minutes a week has significant health gains
- Analysis of study results show lowered risk of five chronic conditions-breast cancer, bowel (colon) cancer, diabetes, ischemic heart disease, and ischemic stroke, with higher levels weekly activity
The benefits of physical activity
have long been known. There is a positive association between physical activity and health outcomes. Physical activities include engaging in work, domestic activities such as gardening and household work or active transportation such as cycling and walking. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a minimum total activity level of 600 metabolic equivalents (MET) minutes per week across different domains of daily life.
A recent study published in the The BMJ
states that high levels of total weekly physical activity are associated with lower risk of five chronic diseases including breast cancer
, bowel (colon) cancer
, ischemic heart disease
, and ischemic stroke. For this the researchers analyzed a total of 174 studies published between 1980 and 2016 examining the association between total level of physical activity and at least one of the five chronic conditions. But how much the quantity and type of physical activity reduces the risk of the conditions, is yet to be determined.
‘Physical activity that include cycling, walking, gardening and housework account for an activity level of 3000-4000 metabolic equivalent (MET) minutes per week that surpass the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations of 600 MET.’
They also stated that significant health gains were observed at an activity level of 3000-4000 MET minutes a week, with diminishing returns at higher activity levels.
A target of 3000 MET minutes a week can be achieved by incorporating different types of physical activity like running up the stairs for 10 minutes, vacuuming for 15 minutes, gardening
for 20 minutes, running for 20 minutes, and walking
for 25 minutes into the daily routine.
The results suggest that the total level of physical activity needs to be several times higher than the current WHO recommended minimum level of 600 MET minutes a week to achieve larger reductions in risks of these diseases, say the authors.
Though the conclusions do not point to a cause and effect, the meta-analyses using observational research are useful for pulling evidence together.
The authors state that the findings have several important implications. With the rise of cardiovascular and diabetes deaths since 1990 and aging population, greater attention and investments in interventions to promote importance of physical activity in the general public is required.
"More studies using the detailed quantification of total physical activity will help to find a more precise estimate for different levels of physical activity," they conclude.
Researchers at the University of Strathclyde and the International Prevention Research Institute in Lyon, France say this study "Represents an advance in the handling of disparate data on a lifestyle factor that has considerable importance for the prevention of chronic diseases."
But it may be difficult to point out whether risk reductions would be different with intense physical activity for shorter duration or light physical activity for longer duration. The researchers conclude that future studies must enhance their measurement and reporting for real gains in knowledge.