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Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity Lowers Risk of Death

Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity Lowers Risk of Death

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  • Physical activity at higher intensities can reduce the risk of death in older women
  • A wearable device called a triaxial accelerometer increases the sensitivity to recognize physical activity and measures accurately
  • Brisk walking lowers the risk of death in older women by 60 to 70 percent

Physical activity at higher intensities can reduce the risk of death in older women, reveals a new study. Lack of exercise or physical activity can lead to death, which could be equivalent to deaths that are caused due to smoking.

The current guidelines recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity a week or a combination of both. Muscle-strengthening exercises can also be included for two or more days in a week.


Physical activity in Older Women

The new study was led by a research team at Brigham and Women's Hospital. The study was published in Circulation.

The research team measured physical activity of women over seven days by using a wearable device called a triaxial accelerometer.

The results showed that more physical activity at higher intensities decreased the risk of death in older women.

Brisk walking, which is moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity had lowered the risk of death by 60 to 70 percent at the end of the four-year study, which was conducted among the most active women. The most active women were compared to the least active women.

Findings of Previous Studies

In most of the previous studies, the findings showed that physical activity could lower mortality rate. However, previous studies have relied primarily on self-reported physical activity, and self-reports are mostly unclear.

Based on these self-report studies, physical activity was found to be lowering mortality rates by 20 to 30 percent, when compared with the most active to the least active.

By using the wearable device, the research team found that there was a 60- 70 percent reduction in the risk than those findings that were estimated in the self-reported studies. There was also a 50 percent reduction seen in non-smokers than smokers.

I-Min Lee, MBBS, ScD, associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and first author of the study stated, "This study supports current guidelines for physical activity, such as those from the federal government and the American Heart Association, that emphasize moderate-intensity physical activity. It also adds to existing evidence that can inform upcoming physical activity guidelines over time."

New Triaxial Wearable Device

This new study is the first to investigate the physical activity and a clinical outcome that used a new triaxial wearable device.

This device increases the sensitivity to recognize physical activity and is capable of measuring more accurately when compared to those that were previously used, like the uniaxial devices, or studies relying on self-reports only.

"We used devices to measure better not only higher intensity physical activities but also lower intensity activities and sedentary behavior, which has become of great interest in the last few years," stated I-Min Lee, MBBS, ScD.

About 16,741 participants whose average age was 72 years participated in the study. These women from the Women's Health Study wore the device for at least 10 hours a day and at least 4 out of 7 days.

Light physical activity like slow walking did not lower death rate during the study.

The research team notes that light activity could be beneficial for other health outcomes, which were not reported in this paper. The research team is continuing this study to investigate other health outcomes and also to examine as to what kind of activities are healthful.

Benefits of Exercise

Exercise is any physical activity, which enhances the overall fitness of the body. There has to be a good balance between a healthy diet and exercise for maintaining fitness and a life free of diseases.

Regular exercise helps increase muscle strength. A healthy body houses a sound mind, which in turn, gives one an optimistic approach to life.

Moderate but regular aerobic exercises such as walking, swimming, gardening and dancing can help obese individuals lose weight, provided that it does not exceed their cardiovascular capacity as well as muscle strengthening, bone strengthening and stretching. Regular exercise reduces the demand for medication by 20% in diabetics and checking the blood glucose levels before and after exercise can be a motivator to continue the exercise regimen.


  1. Dharani M. Sontam, et al. A Memory of Early Life Physical Activity Is Retained in Bone Marrow of Male Rats Fed a High-Fat Diet. Frontiers in Physiology.(2017). DOI:10.3389/fphys.2017.00476

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