Consistent exercise is known to be good for you, and a new study published in Circulation, the scientific journal of the American Heart Association, underscores this idea.
The study of 116,221 adults found that people who went above the minimum guidelines for moderate or vigorous physical activity had a lower risk of premature death.
Current physical activity guidelines for adults:
Current physical activity guidelines from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend that adults get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate physical activity, 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous physical activity “or an equivalent combination of both,” the study notes. .
This study defined moderate physical activity as walking, lifting weights, and lower-intensity exercise. It categorized exercises such as running, cycling and swimming as vigorous physical activity.
Those who exercised two to four times above the minimum lived longer.
Study participants self-reported their leisure time physical activity (i.e. no physical activity at work or otherwise) via questionnaires over the course of 30 years.
From there, the study reported that those who exercised two to four times more than the minimum amount of exercise had a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, as well as from any other cause.
Specifically, the study reported that those who exercised two to four times more than the recommendations for moderate physical activity (about 300 to 599 minutes per week) saw the most benefit. Participants had “26% to 31% lower all-cause mortality, 28% to 38% lower” [cardiovascular] mortality and 25% to 27% less non-[cardiovascular]mortality, according to the study.
Study participants who exercised two to four times harder than the recommendations for vigorous physical activity (about 150 to 299 minutes per week) were found to have “21 to 23% lower all-cause mortality, 27% to 33% lower [cardiovascular] mortality and 19% less non-[cardiovascular] mortality,” the study reported.
These numbers are compared to those who reported zero (or nearly zero) weekly physical activity.
While weekly exercise is undoubtedly good for you, it should be noted that since study participants reported their own physical activity, there is room for error.
In addition, the results also only imply an association between increased physical activity and a lower risk of premature death. However, plenty of previous research has shown that exercise is extremely beneficial for our health — so it’s not exactly a surprise that the study found a link between physical activity and improved longevity.
It’s not too late to reap the benefits of exercise.
If the findings motivate you and you are now interested in taking up cycling or walking more intensively for the first time, give it a try.
Make sure you start slowly. According to Dr. Elizabeth C. Gardner, associate professor of orthopedic surgery and sports medicine at Yale Medicine, “wif you are introducing a new activity into your exercise regime…start with 10 minutes initially [the] activity, such as brisk walking, in the middle of an easier walk.”
This can help introduce the new moderate or vigorous activity into your routine slowly. From there, you can increase the duration or pace over the next few weeks, she noted.
Intense workouts require proper preparation to ensure your body is ready. Gardner said you should make sure you’re hydrated, eat something to fuel you during your workout, and do a dynamic warm-up, “which activates the muscles you’ll be using in your chosen activity,” she said. .
Specifically, Gardner recommended that during your warm-up, you replicate the movements of the exercise you’re about to do. For example, doing high knees for a run or stretching your arm for a game of tennis.
This is a “good way to make sure your muscles and joints are ready for the workout,” she said.
Prioritize strength training in addition to cardio.
“It’s also very important to supplement moderate-intensity exercise with strength training — it’s generally recommended that people do strength training twice a week,” Gardner said.
This helps increase muscle mass, maintain bone strength and maintain balance, she added.
Plus, weightlifting was categorized as moderate physical activity in this study, so by doing strength training twice a week, you’ll be well on your way to meeting minimum exercise guidelines — or beyond.