Devoting just 11 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each day would be sufficient to lower the risk of diseases such as heart disease, stroke and a number of cancers, according to new research.
In an international study led by the University of Cambridge and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the authors conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis, finding that one in 10 early deaths could be prevented if everyone managed at least half the recommended level of physical activity.
They examined results previously reported in 196 peer-reviewed articles and covering more than 30 million participants from 94 large study cohorts to produce what the university said was the largest analysis to date of the association between physical activity levels and the risk of heart disease, cancer and early death.
Outside of work-related physical activity, the researchers found that two out of three people reported activity levels below the National Health Service-recommended 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity and fewer than one in 10 managed more than 300 minutes per week.
Furthermore, accumulating 75 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity brought a 23% lower risk of early death.
Moderate activity for that period of time was also enough to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 17% and cancer by 7% – and for some specific cancers the reduction in risk was greater.
After calculations, the researchers found that if everyone had done the equivalent of at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity, around one in six early deaths would be prevented, one in nine cases of cardiovascular disease would be prevented, and one in 20 cases of cancer would be prevented.
If everyone managed to get at least 75 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity, around one in 10 early deaths would be prevented, one in 20 cases of cardiovascular disease would be prevented, and nearly one in 30 cases of cancer would be prevented.
Cardiovasular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for nearly 18 million deaths per year as of 2019. Cancers were responsible for 9.6 million deaths in 2017.
“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,” Dr. Soren Brage said in a statement.