Data tells us that approximately 28% of Americans — or roughly 80.2 million people — over the age of six are physically inactive. But according to a few recent studies, doing some light exercise for just 10 minutes every week could be enough for those sedentary residents to extend their lives.
A study conducted by the British Medical Association found that coronary heart disease was reduced by 50% when people cycled 20 miles a week. Another study, which was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, has revealed that even a short period of exercise performed on a weekly basis could reduce your risk of death. Based on existing data from more than 80,000 American adults who participated in the National Health Interview survey between 1997 and 2008, the analysis showed that those participants who reported exercising between 10 and 59 minutes every week showed an 18% decrease in mortality of all causes during a given decade, compared to those who failed to do any exercise at all.
That’s good news for the approximately 30% of adults aged 15 and older who walk for exercise, as this reduction was observed among those who participated in moderate activity (like taking a stroll or digging in the garden). Given this development, one could take a short walk around the block every week and potentially live a little longer. Of course, as activity levels increase even further, mortality rates tend to decrease. Those participants analyzed who exercised between 150 and 299 minutes every week were able to reduce their overall death risk by 31%, while those who performed 1,500 minutes or more on a weekly basis reduced their mortality risk by 46%. By 80 years old, sedentary people will lose 50% of their muscle mass. Going for walks, and generally staying active, can not only extend your life it can also improve the quality of your life.
Interestingly, however, there seems to be a physical activity sweet spot for those might want to exercise to reduce their risk of cardiovascular-related mortality rates. Those who exercised for up to an hour every week reduced their risk of death from cardiovascular causes, with those who exercised for up to 300 minutes every week decreasing their heart-related fatality risk by 37%. But those who did more than 1,500 minutes of exercise each week reduced their risk of fatal heart disease by only 33%, which has prompted researchers to conclude that there’s actually a chance that you could exercise too much for optimum heart health.
It’s important to note that researchers could not determine causation in this study; only correlation can be observed here. The study didn’t account for other lifestyle factors, such as dietary habits, that could impact mortality rates. Still, these findings back up what many people believe to be true: that a little bit of exercise is certainly better than none. Of course, aiming to be even more active is a healthy goal — but if you typically move very little throughout the day, don’t be afraid to start off slow. You might be surprised by the benefits that a short workout can provide (or by how much longer you might live).