We all have those days where we just can’t find the time (or will) to exercise, which usually isn’t a problem—unless you stop exercising altogether. While prioritizing exercise can be difficult for those working a desk job or crazy hours (read: a lot of us), a new study from the American Cancer Society shows moving just an extra 30 minutes a day is worth the extra effort.
The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, found regular moderate or vigorous physical activity to be associated with not only a 45 percent decreased risk of death, but researchers also found strong associations between exercise and reduced risk for cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.
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The researchers noted that while there have been many studies conducted to find the relationship between exercise and longevity, few have focused on what type of exercise needs to be done to obtain these benefits. The team analyzed self-reported sitting time, light physical activity, and moderate to vigorous physical activity of the 92,541 participants in the ACS’s Cancer Prevention Study II Nutrition Cohort over 14 years to find out.
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Evidence showed those meeting the baseline criteria of 17 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per day saw a 14 percent decrease in mortality risk after adding 30 minutes of light activity to their daily routine. Those who took that extra 30 minutes to participate in more moderate or vigorous exercise saw a 45 percent decreased risk of death.
There were similar but smaller associations found in those who already participated in 30 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous exercise each day. Those who replaced an extra 30 minutes of sitting time with light physical activity saw a six percent decreased risk for mortality, while those who incorporated an extra 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity saw a 14 percent decrease. It’s important to note those who already spent more than 38 minutes per day engaging in moderate to vigorous exercise did not see any change in risk by adding 30 more minutes of movement each day.
“These findings suggest that the replacement of modest amounts of sitting time with even light physical activity may have the potential to reduce the risk of premature death among less active adults,” the researchers said.
The bottom line: Recent research shows less than a quarter of Americans are meeting the nation’s minimum physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. The number is even lower for those following the physical activity guidelines for optimal health—300 minutes of moderate activity or 150 minutes of vigorous activity per week. We could all use a few tips for incorporating exercise into our daily routine, and here are 12 easy ways to do so.
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