If everyone between 40 and 85 years of age were active just 10 minutes more a day, it could save more than 110,000 U.S. lives a year, a large study reports.
“Our projections are based on an additional 10 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity,” said lead researcher Pedro Saint-Maurice of the Metabolic Epidemiology Branch at the U.S. National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md. “If the walk is brisk, it counts.”
And added exercise benefits everyone — white, Black, Asian and Hispanic, men and women, the investigators found.
For the study, the researchers examined data from more than 4,800 middle-aged and elderly adults who were part of a government health and nutrition study between 2003 and 2006. For seven days, participants wore monitors to record their activity. The researchers then combed nationwide death data to see how many had died by the end of 2015.
The upshot: Exercise paid off big time.
- Adding 10 minutes of exercise lowered participants’ risk of death over the period by 7%; 20 extra minutes reduced risk by 13%; and an extra half-hour of moderate to vigorous activity slashed the risk of death by 17%, the findings showed.
- In other words, an extra 20 minutes of exercise could prevent nearly 210,000 deaths a year, and 30 more minutes could head off more than 270,000 deaths, the study authors said.
- Dr. David Katz — president of the True Health Initiative, a nonprofit that promotes healthy living as the best way to prevent disease — reviewed the study findings.
Katz noted that the study doesn’t establish cause-and-effect proof that additional exercise prevents premature death. But, he added, “even a portion of such benefit would be of great public health importance.”
While the study did not investigate specific causes of death, Saint-Maurice noted that some of the most common ones in the United States — heart disease, diabetes and some cancers — “may be prevented in adults who are more active.”