Ruslan Guzov/Shutterstock
Source: Ruslan Guzov/Shutterstock

Hippocrates wisely said, "Walking is the best medicine." A wide range of studies have established that regular physical activity has a better overall effect on well-being and longevity than any other medical treatment. Unfortunately, many people find it difficult to achieve the recommended quantity and intensity of exercise prescribed by most physicians. (This amounts to about 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week.)

That said, if you don’t have time for long workouts—or hate breaking a sweat—I have good news. A new study reports that just fifteen minutes of moderate daily physical activity (such as taking a walk) is associated with a 22% lower risk of death for people over 60 years of age. Previous research has shown that small amounts of exercise reap huge benefits for people of all ages. 

The latest findings on the benefits of walking are being presented in a lecture, “Physical Activity for Older Adults: Even a Little Is Already Good,” today at the EuroPrevent 2016 annual meeting by Dr. David Hupin, a physician in the Department of Clinical and Exercise Physiology at the University Hospital of Saint-Etienne in France.

Small Amounts of Moderate Exercise Pay Huge Dividends

The foundation of Hupin’s exercise prescriptive is based on research he’s conducted which found that the more physical activity older adults do, the greater the health benefit. However, the biggest jump in health benefit was achieved at the low levels of physical activity. 

Statistically, the medium and high levels of exercise actually bring smaller increments of health benefit. Compared to those who were physically inactive, older adults with low, medium, and high activity levels had a 22%, 28% and 35% lower risk of death, respectively.

In a statement, Hupin said, "We found that the low level of activity, which is half the recommended amount, was associated with a 22% reduced risk of death in older adults compared with those who were inactive. This level of activity equates to a 15 minute brisk walk each day." 

Conclusions: Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day . . . Start Slowly and Build Your Walking Routine

Many people have the false perception that small quantities of moderate exercise won't make a difference on longevity or improve their well-being. With this "all or nothing" attitude, many people stay completely inactive. Please don't fall into this quagmire of sedentarism! The latest research confirms that just fifteen minutes a day of walking can dramatically improve your odds of living a longer and healthier life.

Also, by incorporating doable doses of moderate aerobic exercise into your daily routine, people of all ages can gradually get closer to the recommended 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity simply by walking a bit more, most days of the week. 

The researchers emphasize that older adults should progressively increase their quantity of physical activity rather than dramatically changing their habits to meet daily exercise recommendations. Always consult with your physician before starting any new type of exercise regimen. 

To read more on this topic, check out my Psychology Today blog posts:

© 2016 Christopher Bergland. All rights reserved.

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