If you have a sedentary lifestyle, the prospect of starting an exercise program can be daunting. Here’s some good news about making a modest effort. Just a small amount of physical activity – a half-hour walk a week – could reduce your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by half. That’s the conclusion of a new study from Stanford University in California, published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
The study suggests that physical fitness – rather than diet or general health status – is the strongest predictor of mortality.
The 20-year study tested the fitness of more than 4000 people in their 50s and 60s who had no major health problems. Participants were asked how much exercise they did, and then divided evenly into five groups from the least fit to the most fit. Researchers found the group that was almost completely sedentary had a much higher risk of death than the other groups – including the one with people who exercised only a bit each week.
The difference in physical activity between the least-fit and the second-least-fit groups was slight – not much more than an extra half-hour of walking per week. But it turns out that 30 added minutes of exercise each week could add years to your life. Members of the least-fit group were twice as likely to die of cardiovascular disease than the second-least-fit.
And it wasn’t because that group had more smokers or drinkers. The scientists insist the only difference was that extra bit of exercise.