(CNN) — When you can’t do a convenient workout routine in a busy day, do you think there’s no point in doing anything at all? You should rethink that mindset. Just 11 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per day could reduce the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease or early death, a large new study has found.
Aerobic activities include walking, dancing, running, jogging, bicycling, and swimming. You can gauge the intensity level of an activity by your heart rate and how hard you are breathing as you move. Generally, being able to talk but not sing during an activity would be a moderate intensity activity. Vigorous intensity is characterized by the inability to carry on a conversation.
Higher levels of physical activity have been associated with lower rates of premature death and chronic disease, according to previous research. But how the risk levels of these outcomes are affected by the amount of exercise someone does has been more difficult to determine. To explore this impact, scientists at the University of Cambridge in the UK analyzed data from 196 studies, totaling more than 30 million adult participants who were followed for an average of 10 years. The results of this latest study were published Tuesday in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
The study focused primarily on participants who had gotten the recommended minimum amount of 150 minutes of exercise per week, or 22 minutes per day. Compared with inactive participants, adults who had engaged in 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic physical activity per week had a 31% lower risk of dying from any cause, a 29% lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, and 15% less risk of dying from cancer.
The same amount of exercise was linked to a 27% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease and a 12% lower risk of cancer.
“This is a compelling systematic review of the existing research,” said Dr. Leana Wen, CNN Medical Analyst, emergency physician and professor of public health at George Washington University. Wen was not involved in the investigation.
“We already knew that there was a strong correlation between increased physical activity and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and premature death. This research confirms this, and further states that less than the recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week can help.”
Even people who got only half the recommended minimum amount of physical activity benefited. Accumulating 75 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week (about 11 minutes of activity per day) was associated with a 23% lower risk of premature death. Being active for 75 minutes a week was also enough to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 17% and cancer by 7%.
Beyond 150 minutes per week, any additional benefit was minor.
“If you’re someone who finds the idea of doing 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week a bit daunting, then our findings should be good news,” said study author Dr. Soren Brage, group leader for Epidemiology of the Physical Activity group of the Epidemiology Unit of the Medical Research Council of the University of Cambridge, in a statement. “This is also a good starting position: if you find 75 minutes a week manageable, then you could try gradually building up to the full recommended amount.”
The authors’ findings affirm the World Health Organization (WHO) position that some physical activity is better than none, even if you don’t get the recommended amount of exercise.
“One in 10 premature deaths could have been prevented if everyone achieved at least half the recommended level of physical activity,” the authors wrote in the study. In addition, “10.9% and 5.2% of all incident cases of CVD (cardiovascular disease) and cancer would have been prevented.”
Important note: If you experience pain while exercising, stop immediately. Check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.
A little exercise every day
The authors did not have details about the specific types of physical activity that the participants did. But some experts have ideas about how physical activity might reduce the risk of chronic disease and early death.
“There are many potential mechanisms including the improvement and maintenance of body composition, insulin resistance, and physical function due to a wide variety of favorable influences from aerobic activity,” said Haruki Momma, associate professor of medicine and science. in sports and exercise at Tohoku University in Japan. Momma was not involved in the investigation.
Benefits could also include improved immune function, lung and heart health, inflammation levels, high blood pressure, cholesterol and the amount of body fat, said Eleanor Watts, a postdoctoral fellow in the division of cancer epidemiology and genetics. at the National Cancer Institute. Watts was not involved in the investigation.
“This translates to a lower risk of chronic disease,” said Peter Katzmarzyk, associate executive director of population sciences and public health at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Katzmarzyk was not involved in the investigation.
The fact that participants who did only half the minimum recommended amount of exercise still experienced benefits doesn’t mean people shouldn’t try to exercise more, just that “perfect shouldn’t be the enemy of good,” Wen said. “Something is better than nothing”.
To get up to 150 minutes of physical activity a week, find activities you enjoy, Wen said. “You are much more likely to get involved in something you love to do than something you have to force yourself to do.”
And when it comes to how you fit into your exercise, you can think outside the box.
“Moderate activity doesn’t have to involve what we normally think of as exercise, like sports or running,” study co-author Leandro Garcia, a professor at Queen’s University Belfast’s School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, said in a news release. . “Sometimes replacing a few habits is all it takes.
“For example, try walking or cycling to your place of work or school instead of using a car, or participate in active games with your children or grandchildren. Doing activities that you enjoy and are easy to fit into your weekly routine is a great way to become more active.”