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A quick daily walk reduces the risk of early death

Cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease and stroke, are the leading cause of death globally, and were responsible for nearly 18 million deaths in 2019, while cancers caused 9.6 million deaths in 2017. Many studies have shown that moderate-intensity physical activity – such as brisk walking, hiking, dancing, riding a bike, or playing tennis – significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer. 

Although UK’s National Health Services (NHS) has recommended that adults perform such activities at least 150 minutes a week, a recent review study conducted by the University of Cambridge has found that even half of this amount – 75 minutes a week or 11 minutes a day – would be sufficient to significantly lower the risk of such diseases, and could help prevent one in ten early deaths.

To clarify the amount of physical activity necessary to reduce the risk of a variety of chronic diseases and early death, the experts carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis of 196 peer-reviewed articles, covering over 30 million participants from 94 large study cohorts. 

The analysis revealed that accumulating 75 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week reduced the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 17 percent, cancer by seven percent, and early death by 23 percent. For some types of cancers – including head and neck, myeloid leukaemia, myeloma, and gastric cardia cancers – the reduction in risk was even greater (14-26 percent).

 “If you are someone who finds the idea of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week a bit daunting, then our findings should be good news. Doing some physical activity is better than doing none. This is also a good starting position – if you find that 75 minutes a week is manageable, then you could try stepping it up gradually to the full recommended amount,” said study senior author Soren Brage, an expert in the benefits of physical activity at Cambridge.

“Moderate activity doesn’t have to involve what we normally think of exercise, such as sports or running. Sometimes, replacing some habits is all that is needed. For example, try to walk or cycle to your work or study place instead of using a car, or engage in active play with your kids or grand kids. Doing activities that you enjoy and that are easy to include in your weekly routine is an excellent way to become more active,” concluded lead author Leandro Garcia, a lecturer in Complexity Science in Public Health at Queen’s University Belfast.

The study is published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

By Andrei Ionescu, Staff Writer

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