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 Increased Physical Activity Regardless of Intensity Reduces Risk of Death

Increased Physical Activity Regardless of Intensity Reduces Risk of Death

Author -  Dr. Lakshmi Venkataraman, MD
Medically Reviewed by 
The Medindia Medical Review Team on August 22, 2019 at 6:31 PM
  • Becoming more physically active, regardless of intensity reduces the risk of death due to any cause (all-cause mortality rate), especially in middle-aged and older persons
  • Sitting for 9.5 hours or more a day (excluding sleep) increases the risk of death. Therefore, there is a need to perform light exercises than simply remaining seated
  • Optimal health can be attained with just 24 minutes of brisk walking daily or other forms of moderately-intense physical activity

Remaining physically active regardless of intensity is beneficial in reducing the risk of death in middle-aged and older adults, according to a recent observational analysis.

The team of multinational scientists from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Leicester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) conducted the study. The findings of the study appear in the British Medical Journal.

Link Between Physical Activity and Death Risk

Currently, the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines advise a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of high-intensity physical activity weekly for persons between 18 and 64 years.

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These guidelines are mostly based mainly on self-reported activity, which may not always be accurate and the right amount of activity and intensity of exercise needed to maintain optimal health is unclear and it would be useful to gain more insight on the impact of physical activity and risk of death.

The current observational study led by Professor Ulf Ekelund of the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences in Oslo looked at studies that measured the association between physical activity, sedentary time and risk of all-cause mortality.

Details of the Study

  • The current observational analysis looked at data from eight high quality research projects
  • The studies included for the analysis had used accelerometers (a wearable gadget that accurately records the volume and intensity of physical activity during wakeful hours) to measure physical activity levels objectively rather than using self-reported values.
  • Light-intensity activity includes light tasks such as cleaning, dusting cooking or washing dishes.
  • Moderate exercises make you slightly short of breath or sweat and include brisk walking and light jogging
  • The analysis evaluated 36,383 middle-aged and older adults of minimum 40 years of age (average age 62)
  • Activity levels were categorized ranging from least to most active
  • Participants were followed up for an average duration of 5.8 years
  • During the follow-up duration, 2,149 (5.9%) of the study subjects died.
  • Even after taking into consideration, other potentially influential factors, the team found that any level of physical activity, no matter what intensity reduced the risk of all-cause mortality
  • About 300 minutes (5 hours) of light-intensity physical activity daily or about 24 minutes per day moderate-intensity physical activity was associated with almost 50% lesser risk of death compared to persons who performed little or no physical activity
  • Additionally, a significantly lower death risk was noted between the least and the second least active group suggesting that even engaging in some light to moderate-intensity physical activity daily offers much health benefits
  • The difference between the least and second least active groups was only about an hour of light activity or 5 minutes of moderate activity daily to derive substantial health benefit
  • An important finding was that spending 9.5 hours or more remaining inactive or simply sitting was associated with a significantly higher risk of death, which further increased with every hour above this threshold.
Thus, the findings of the study suggest that remaining active and up on your feet instead of sitting for long periods offers huge health benefits even if you are unable to engage in moderate to highly intense physical exercise daily.

Dr Charlotte Edwardson, an associate professor in physical activity, sedentary behaviour and health at the University of Leicester and a co-author of the study, says: "These findings really reinforce the saying 'Doing something is better than doing nothing'. They show that physical activity of ANY intensity lowers the risk of death, so if you're someone who doesn't achieve the recommended levels of moderate-intensity physical activity, then doing more light activity, for example, pottering around more at work or at home and just generally being on your feet more, will still be beneficial."

Potential Merits & Demerits of Study

  • The large sample size and use of devices to accurately measure physical activity provides more reliable results compared to earlier research studies
  • Potential limitations include restricting participants to the US and Western Europe that may not be applicable to other populations
  • Also only persons 40 years and above were included in the analysis and the results may not be applicable to younger persons
In summary, the findings of the study suggest that we should sit less and stay on our feet and move more often even if we don't perform regular moderate to severe intensity exercises, to reduce risk of death and maintain optimal health.

Reference :
  1. Sitting For Long Hours Significantly Increases Your Risk of Death - (http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.l4570)

Source: Medindia
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