Daily walk prevents one in 10 early deaths – study from the University of Cambridge

1 March 2023
Daily walk prevents one in 10 early deaths – study from the University of Cambridge

You don't have to be a runner or play sport to feel the benefits of exercise - fitting a brisk walk into your day is good enough, according to research from the University pf Cambridge by Dr Soren Brage.

If everyone did as little as 11 minutes of daily activity, one in 10 premature deaths could be prevented.

Doing some exercise is better than doing nothing, the researchers found.

The analysis, in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, looked at previous published research on the benefits of exercise in nearly 100 large studies and nearly 200 peer-reviewed articles to get an overview of the evidence and concluded that even doing half the amount recommended by the NHS could prevent one in 20 cases of cardiovascular disease and nearly one in 30 cases of cancer.

This is 75 minutes per week - or 11 minutes per day - riding a bike, walking fast, hiking, dancing or playing tennis.

"You should feel yourself moving, your heart will beat faster but you won't necessarily feel out of breath," says Dr Soren Brage, who led the research.

Doing that amount is enough to reduce the risk of developing heart disease and stroke by 17% and cancer by 7%.

Regular exercise reduces body fat and blood pressure while also improving fitness, sleep and heart health in the long run.

The benefits of exercise were even greater for some specific cancers, such as head and neck, gastric, leukaemia and blood cancers, but lower for lung, liver, endometrial, colon and breast cancers.

"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," says Dr Brage in a report to the BBC.

"If you find that 75 minutes a week is manageable, then you could try stepping it up gradually to the full recommended amount."

They calculated that if everyone in the studies had done at least 150 minutes of exercise a week - the full amount - then around one in six early deaths would be prevented.

Getting enjoyable activities into your weekly routine is the best way to increase the amount of physical activity you do, they say.

The NHS recommends adults also do activities that strengthen muscles twice a week. Yoga, pilates, lifting weights, heavy gardening and carrying heavy shopping bags all count.



Non-occupational physical activity and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and mortality outcomes: a dose–response meta-analysis of large prospective studies

Leandro Garcia, Matthew Pearce, Ali Abbas, Alexander Mok, Tessa Strain, Sara Ali, Alessio Crippa, Paddy C Dempsey, Rajna Golubic, Paul Kelly, Yvonne Laird, Eoin McNamara, Samuel Moore, Thiago Herick de Sa, Andrea D Smith, Katrien Wijndaele, James Woodcock,Soren Brage

British Journal of Sports Medicine Published Online First: 28 February 2023. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2022-105669


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