Being sedentary for 20 years can double the risk of premature death and increase the likelihood of dying from cardiovascular disease by nearly three times, a study has found.
As little as 150 minutes of weekly moderate aerobic activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous exercise per week will all help to improve heart health.
The conclusions come from the HUNT study, which is one of the largest health studies based in Norway that follows their population over time with continuous monitoring of risk factors and health outcomes.
Dr Trine Moholdt presented the HUNT study at ESC Congress said:
“Do activities you like and get more movement into your everyday life.
For example, walk to the shops instead of driving, get off the metro a stop early, and use stairs instead of the lift.
I recommend everyone to get out of breath at least a couple of times each week.”
The analysis of changes in physical activity of 23,146 Norwegians aged 20 and older suggests that the amount of exercise has a direct effect on longevity and early death.
The survey assessed the frequency and duration of physical activity during leisure time of these subjects.
People were split into different groups based on their physical activity levels.
These levels were classified as ‘high’ meaning two or more hours exercise, ‘moderate’ meaning less than two hours exercise per week, and ‘inactive’.
The inactive group were 2.7 times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease and twice as likely to die early compared to those in the high activity group.
Those in the moderate activity group had a 90 percent greater risk of cardiovascular disease and a 60 percent higher risk of all-cause death compared to those in the high activity group.
Dr Moholdt said:
“Our findings imply that to get the maximum health benefits of physical activity in terms of protection against premature all-cause and cardiovascular death, you need to continue being physically active.
You can also reduce your risk by taking up physical activity later in life, even if you have not been active before.”
An important point to make here is that physical activity levels even below the advised levels will give health benefits.
Physical fitness is more important than the amount of exercise.
Clinicians should individualise their advice and help people do even smaller amounts of activity that will improve fitness — this includes all types of exercise that make you breathe heavily.”
Leisure time physical activity is a behaviour that can be established as a routine habit in our life.
Gardening, walking, swimming, cycling, dancing, running, hiking, mowing the grass, playing football, tennis or any other sports are examples of moderate and vigorous activities that provide many health benefits.
About the author
Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.
The study was presented at the ESC Congress (Moholdt et al., 2019).