We’ve written before about how it doesn’t take long to exercise to reap the health benefits.
Now a new study has backed this up. After looking at the exercise habits of 577,909 adults in the US, researchers have found tJust 10 minutes of regular exercise (or “cardio”) a week can reduce your risk of dying from the common cold or pneumonia.
In terms of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), the ideal amount is at least 150 minutes per week of physical activity (such as brisk walking), or 75 minutes per week of moderate activity (such as cycling).
But the reality is that most of us do not come close to this. So the latest research – led and a team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Georgia and Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas offers good news for those of us who are trying to squeeze a little work into our week.
“The risk was significantly lower among those who did 10-150 min/week of leisure time MVPA, compared to those who did nothing,” write the researchers in their published paper.
“Although this level is often referred to as ‘inadequate’ because it falls below the recommended time, it may provide health benefits in relation to not exercising.”
The risk of dying from the flu or pneumonia decreased by 21 percent on average in the group of 10-150 minutes per week, compared to those who did not exercise at all, based on 20 years of age. In other words, some jobs are better than none.
Cutting down 150-300 and 301-600 minutes per week of MVPA was associated with a 41 percent and 50 percent reduction in risk, compared to no activity at all. However, no additional benefits were observed after 600 minutes per week, suggesting an increase.
The group also looked at muscle mass activity (MSA): the recommended weekly amount for this is two sessions per week. Taken with MVPA, those who met both goals had a 48 percent lower risk of dying from the flu or pneumonia, compared to those who didn’t meet either goal.
With isolated MSA, there was a J shape, with a drop in flu and pneumonia risk of death at the beginning, and then increased as the episodes increased. Although this study did not look at this in detail, one explanation is that in many cases, strong MSA can have harmful effects in terms of blood pressure and blood flow.
“Without meeting the aerobic guidelines, adults who did 2 sessions of MSA/week had lower mortality than those who did less than 2, while mortality was higher among those who did 7 or more,” write the researchers.
Despite the large sample size, this study has its limitations – not only based on surveys filled out by the participants, but not on direct observations. The study does not show a direct causal relationship, but it does suggest a link between exercise and the risk of dying from the flu or pneumonia, which can be tested in other studies.
What the findings show is that there is considerable variation in how well people adhere to weekly exercise guidelines, depending on many factors – including age, sex, BMI group, and other health factors.
Half of the study participants, 50.5 percent, did not meet the MVPA or MSA goal. The main takeaway from this research is that we need to do more to get more people involved – and that even just a few minutes of exercise a week can make a big difference.
“Given the reliable biological mechanisms and the inconsistency of previous studies, this protective association may require clinical and public health efforts to reduce the prevalence of physical inactivity and inadequate MSA,” write the researchers.
Research has been published in British Journal of Sports Medicine.