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?


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.


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.


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.


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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