Minimum Amount of Physical Activity for Reduced Mortality and Extended Life Expectancy: A Prospective Cohort Study

Study Questions:

What are the health benefits of a range of volumes of physical activity in a Taiwanese population?

Methods:

In this prospective cohort study, 416,175 individuals (199,265 men and 216,910 women) participated in a standard medical screening program in Taiwan between 1996 and 2008, with an average follow-up of 8.05 years (standard deviation [SD], 4.21). On the basis of the amount of weekly exercise indicated in a self-administered questionnaire, participants were placed into one of five categories of exercise volumes: inactive, or low, medium, high, or very high activity. The investigators calculated hazard ratios (HRs) for mortality risks for every group compared with the inactive group, and calculated life expectancy for every group.

Results:

Compared with individuals in the inactive group, those in the low-volume activity group, who exercised for an average of 92 minutes per week (95% confidence interval [CI], 71-112) or 15 minutes a day (SD, 1.8), had a 14% reduced risk of all-cause mortality (0.86, 0.81-0.91), and had a 3-year longer life expectancy. Every additional 15 minutes of daily exercise beyond the minimum amount of 15 minutes a day further reduced all-cause mortality by 4% (95% CI, 2.5-7.0) and all-cancer mortality by 1% (0.3-4.5). These benefits were applicable to all age groups and both sexes, and to those with cardiovascular disease risks. Individuals who were inactive had a 17% (HR, 1.17; 95% CI, 1.10-1.24) increased risk of mortality compared with individuals in the low-volume group.

Conclusions:

The authors concluded that 15 minutes a day or 90 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise might be of benefit, even for individuals at risk of cardiovascular disease.

Perspective:

This study suggests that individuals who did a daily average of 15 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise had significant health benefits when compared with individuals who were inactive. In the study population, if inactive individuals engaged in low-volume daily exercise, one in six all-cause deaths could be postponed. Use of this minimum amount of exercise can reduce mortality from heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. This low volume of physical activity could play a major part in the global war against cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and cancer, improving overall health of the population while reducing medical costs and health disparities.

Clinical Topics: Diabetes and Cardiometabolic Disease, Prevention, Exercise

Keywords: Risk, Neoplasms, Follow-Up Studies, Risk Reduction Behavior, Exercise, Life Expectancy, Asian Continental Ancestry Group, Heart Diseases, Cause of Death, Incidence, Motor Activity, Cardiovascular Diseases, Taiwan, Diabetes Mellitus


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