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How Much Should You Exercise for a Longer Life?

May 18th, 2015

Two newly published studies offer clues into the relationship between exercise and life expectancy.

What is the right amount of exercise for living a longer, healthier life? For years, people have been seeking the answer to this question, trying to find the sweet spot between no exercise at all (which obviously is not healthy) and too much exercise (if there is such a thing).

The current guideline of 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, as touted by numerous government and health authorities, isn’t actually all that helpful. For one thing it’s not clear if 150 minutes is a minimum amount or the perfect amount.

Fortunately, two new studies published last month in JAMA Internal Medicine provide some new insights into this topic.

New Ideal Amount of Exercise Pinpointed?

The first study was a collaborative effort between researchers at Harvard, the National Cancer Institute, and other institutions. Comparing data on exercise habits compiled from ongoing health surveys and 14 years’ worth of death records, the study others found:

  • Those who got no exercise were at the highest risk of early death
  • Those who exercised a little, but not 150 minutes per week, had a 20 percent lower risk of premature death
  • Those who exercised precisely 150 minutes per week had a 31 percent lower risk of premature death
  • Those who exercised 450 minutes per week had a 39 percent lower risk of premature death

The study also examined data on individuals who exercised more than 450 minutes per week. They did not find that these individuals earned themselves any further reduction in their risk of premature death. However, the extra exercise did not increase their risk either.

Add Vigorous Activity for a Boost in Life-Lengthening Benefits?

The second study focused on intensity of exercise performed to see whether this affected longevity. In the study, Australian researchers again used survey data to compare the death rates of individuals with different exercise patterns.

They found that compared to individuals who completed their 150 minutes of exercise without breaking a sweat, those who spent up to 30 percent of that time working up a sweat with vigorous exercise were 9 percent less likely to die prematurely. Individuals who spent more than 30 percent of their 150 minutes exercising vigorously earned themselves an addition 13 percent reduction in their risk of early death.

What Does This Mean for You?

These studies clearly show that if you aren’t active now, you should be. Of course, you will need to be careful to work up to your goal amount and intensity of exercise slowly and safely. Our virtual personal trainer service can help you do this. Your personal trainer can also help you go beyond basic exercise to explore specific strength training or toning exercises that will help you stay fit as your age.

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