- By Philippa Roxby
- Health journalist
You don’t have to be a runner or a sports enthusiast to feel the benefits of exercise – incorporating a brisk walk into your day is enough, according to a UK analysis.
He found that if everyone did as little as 11 minutes of daily activity, one in 10 premature deaths could be prevented.
However, most people fail to get the recommended minimum of 150 minutes of exercise per week.
But exercising is better than doing nothing, say Cambridge University researchers.
The NHS recommends everyone get 150-300 minutes of physical activity that increases heart rate each week or 75-150 minutes of vigorous activity per week which makes you breathe hard.
The research team reviewed hundreds of previous studies on the benefits of physical activity and concluded that even half the recommended amount could prevent one in 20 cases of cardiovascular disease and nearly one in 30 cases of cancer.
That equates to 75 minutes a week — or 11 minutes a day — riding a bike, walking briskly, hiking, dancing, or playing tennis.
“You should feel yourself moving, your heart will beat faster but you won’t necessarily feel short of breath,” says Dr Soren Brage, who led the research.
Making that amount is enough to reduce the risk of developing heart disease and stroke by 17% and cancer by 7%, the results suggest.
Regular exercise reduces body fat and blood pressure while improving fitness, sleep, and long-term heart health.
The benefits of exercise were even greater for some specific cancers, such as head and neck, stomach, leukemia, and blood cancers, but less for lung, liver, endometrium, colon and breast.
Not everyone finds it easy to do the exercise recommended by the NHS – two in three people say they get less than 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate exercise and less than one in 10 people manage more than 300 minutes (five hours) per week.
“If you’re someone who finds the idea of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week a bit daunting, then our results should be good news,” says Dr. Brage.
“If you find 75 minutes a week to be manageable, you can try increasing it gradually to the full recommended amount.”
They calculated that if everyone in the studies got at least 150 minutes of exercise per week – the full amount – then about one in six premature deaths would be prevented.
The researchers say that replacing certain habits is all that is needed.
For example, they advise trying to walk or cycle to work or to the shops instead of using a car, or being active when playing with your children or grandchildren.
Incorporating enjoyable activities into your weekly routine is the best way to increase the amount of physical activity you do, they say.
The NHS recommends adults also do muscle-strengthening activities twice a week.
Yoga, pilates, strength training, heavy gardening, and carrying heavy shopping bags all count.