Want to live a long, healthy life? Amazingly, researchers have mined demographic data to unearth the exact “doses” of exercise needed to lengthen your life.
These “dose-response” studies provide answers to these questions:
- How many minutes of brisk walking (or any moderate exercise) do you need to do per day to increase your life expectancy?
- If you dislike exercising, what’s the very least amount you can get away with and still earn a longevity boost?
- For exercise go-getters, what’s the amount of brisk walking that provides the most extra years of life for your exercise input?
The latest research by expert epidemiologist I-Min Lee of Harvard Medical School and her associates gives you the answers based on studies of over 650,000 people over 40, followed on average for 10 years.
After intense number crunching to control for different variables, the research backs up what we all know intuitively—almost any amount of regular exercise promotes longevity. And even small amounts of exercise can make a big difference.
For example, people who chose to walk briskly for just 11 minutes per day (75 minutes each week) added 1.8 years to their life, compared to non-exercisers. That’s a nice boost for 11 minutes of walking per day! And it gets better. Those who walked 22 minutes every day (or 150 minutes/week or 30 minutes 5 days a week, following the federal recommendation) gained 3.4 years of life on average.
The people who increased their life span the most walked 43 minutes a day, lengthening their life by an average of 4.2 years. After 43 minutes, the benefits of longevity tended to level off.(Note to runners and other vigorous exercisers: You received the same benefit, but in about half the time.)
So what’s your choice? 11 minutes of moderate exercise/day? 22 minutes? 43 minutes? Pick your pleasure and live a longer life!
Naturally, a long life need not be your only reason to exercise regularly. Exercise has numerous benefits for the mind, body, and spirit, as shown here and here.
And exercise is not the only factor in longevity. Research shows that people who live long lives tend to be responsible and conscientious, engage in fewer risky activities, are non-smokers, and find their way into healthier relationships. They live in an environment with little air pollution or lead pollution and just-right amounts of stress. (See here for more on longevity factors.) They inherited good genes from their parents.
While some longevity factors are beyond your control, the choice to exercise for 11 minutes per day--or whatever your chosen exercise level--is a mini-goal that's realistic, specific, and measurable--and that pays off big in the long run.
© Meg Selig
Meg Selig is the author of Changepower! 37 Secrets to Habit Change Success (Routledge, 2009). For tidbits on health, motivation, and willpower, follow her on Twitter or Facebook.
A special thanks to Dr. I-Min Lee for clarifying some aspects of her research, found here:
There's also a summary here.
Air pollution. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/magazine/f12-six-cities-environmental-health-air-pollution/
For more on longevity, I recommend The Longevity Factor, by Howard S. Friedman and Leslie R. Martin (Hudson St. Press, 2011).
If you are interested in exercise and health, you might like this blog by Susan Krause Whitbourne, "19 Reasons to Exercise." For info on exercise, aging, and brain health, click on my blog here.