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Increase Life Span With Only 15 Minutes of Exercise a Day

Diane Fennell

September 9, 2011

Last week, we reported on research showing that aerobic exercise is best when it comes to reducing dangerous belly fat. In related news, a new study out of China suggests that exercising for only 15 minutes a day can increase life span by up to three years.

The current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, published by the US Department of Health and Human Services, recommends that adults get a minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity per week, or roughly 30 minutes, five days a week.

To determine whether achieving less than the recommended amount of physical activity could increase life span, researchers in Taiwan looked at data from nearly 420,000 men and women collected over the course of 12 years. Participants were categorized into inactive, low, medium, high, or very high activity groups based on their responses to a questionnaire regarding their exercise intensity and duration.

In the low-activity group, the average amount of exercise was 92 minutes a week, or approximately 15 minutes of exercise per day. Mortality risk in this group was 14% lower and life expectancy three years longer in this group compared to in the inactive group. Moreover, beyond the minimum 15 minutes of physical activity daily, each additional 15 minutes reduced the all-cause death risk by another 4% and the all-cancer death risk by 1%. This trend continued until a person was exercising 100 minutes a day, after which no further benefits were seen.

Benefits applied to both sexes and across all age groups and to people at risk for cardiovascular disease.

According to lead study author Xifeng Wu, MD, PhD, “The benefits of exercise appear to be significant even without reaching the recommended 150 minutes per week based on results of previous research.” And Anil Nigam, MD, and Martin Juneau, MD, of the Montreal Heart Institute, note that “The knowledge that as little as 15 minutes per day of exercise on most days of the week can substantially reduce an individual’s risk of dying could encourage many more individuals to incorporate a small amount of physical activity into their busy lives.”

For more information about the study, see the article “Just 15 Minutes of Exercise a Day ‘Increases Your Life Expectancy by Three Years’” or the study’s abstract in The Lancet.

And to read about fun ways of fitting physical fitness into your day, check out the article “Making Exercise More Fun,” by exercise physiologist and certified diabetes educator Richard M. Weil.



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