15 minutes of daily exercise lowers risk of death

Consumer Reports News: August 15, 2011 06:39 PM

Good news—the bare minimum is good enough, suggests a study published online in the Lancet today concluding that just 15 minutes of daily physical activity increases your life expectancy by 14 percent, or three years, over your sedentary counterparts.

In this large observational study, over 400,000 Taiwanese men and women aged 20 and older participated in a 12-year standard medical screening program, with an average follow-up of eight years. Based on self reports of weekly activity, participants were placed into five categories: inactive, low, medium, high, or very high. Researchers calculated hazard ratios (HR) for mortality risks for every group compared with the inactive group, and calculated life expectancy.

Compared with the inactive group, low-activity participants who exercised for an average of 92 min per week (about 15 min a day) had a 14 percent, or three year, increased life expectancy. What’s more, every additional 15 minutes of daily exercise beyond the daily minimum further reduced risk of death by 4 percent.

Bottom line: There’s nothing new about the fact that exercise contributes to longer life, but the need for just 15 minutes a day may help motivate even the most rooted of couch potatoes.

While the government recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week, there’s nothing wrong with starting small. Remember to check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine if you haven't been active lately.

Minimum amount of physical activity for reduced mortality and extended life expectancy: a prospective cohort study [The Lancet]

Ginger Skinner

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