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Only Vigorous Exercise Reduces the Risk of Early Death, Evidence Suggests

Only Vigorous Exercise Reduces the Risk of Early Death, Evidence Suggests

If you’re tempted to ignore this health claim because so many of them are misleading or false, take a look at the evidence that supports this one.

One claim that appears to have something to it is that vigorous exercise (as in exercise that leaves you out of breathe) is much better for you than moderate exercise (like walking, playing golf, a social game of doubles at tennis or a spot of gardening).

The latest evidence to support this is a study that looked at more than 200,000 people aged between 45 and 75 years in Australia and concluded that vigorous exercise within that group of people reduced the risk of death by between 9 and 13% compared with those who only took moderate exercise.

The message appears to be clear: if you want to reduce the chances of dying early, you need to be taking strenuous exercise.

Should we believe it?

Of course, with so much misinformation out there, it’s important to question these new studies. Supporting the credibility of this one is the fact that it looked at such a large population. On the downside, though, is that it was an observational study rather than a randomised clinical trial. In other words, the possibility exists that the findings are skewed by the fact that healthy people are more likely to engage in vigorous exercise in the first place.

Here’s why….

But if you’re tempted to ignore the study’s conclusions because of its limitations then it may be worth also considering the following supporting evidence:

  •         A study of 38,000 recreational walkers concluded that the speed of walking has a greater positive impact on risk of mortality than the distance walked (see here)

  •         A study of 55,000 people found that running even 5-10 minutes a day is associated with markedly lower risk of mortality. Persistent runners (even at slow pace or low distances) had a 29% lower risk of death by any cause and a 50% lower risk of death by cardiovascular disease people who never run (see here)

  •         A study of 416,175 people found that people who exercised for 15 minutes a day had a 14% lower risk of mortality and a 3 year longer life expectancy than the inactive group. Each additional 15 minutes of daily exercise further reduced mortality risk by 4% and all-cancer mortality risk by 1% (see here)

  •        A 20 year study of 3,000 US railroad workers found that expending 1,000 kilocalories per week in physical exercise reduced the risk of coronary heart disease by 30-40% compared with a sedentary lifestyle. It takes approximately 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day to expend a weekly total of 1,000 kilocalories (see here)

  •        A study of 44,000 men found that those living a sedentary life were twice as likely to have coronary heart disease than those engaging in regular, intense exercise (see here)

  •        A study of 45,000 men and women found that the optimal amount of exercise to reduce the risk of mortality is 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week. Interestingly, among men but not women additional reductions in mortality risk are achieved by engaging in a higher ration of vigorous exercise to moderate exercise (see here)

The new study is published in the latest edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association: Internal Medicine and can be found here

Image: © Maridav - Fotolia.com

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