Even small amounts of moderate activity cause a significant reduction in mortality, study showsJust 20 minutes of walking a day could halve your risk of premature death
Couch potatoes can halve their risk of premature death with a 20-minute daily walk, research has shown.
The study of more than 3,300 physically inactive people found that those who were persuaded to change their habits saw a significant reduction in mortality.
Spanish scientists tracked the large group of patients – aged up to 80 – for 12 years to see what difference changes in their lifestyle could make.
Those who managed a significant boost in exercise levels – meeting recommendations to carry out 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, or a 20-minute brisk walk daily – saw mortality fall by 45 per cent.
Even those who only managed a 10-minute walk saw mortality fall by 20 per cent, the research published in the British Journal of General Practice found.
If everyone had followed international health advice and managed 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity, 20 per cent of deaths could have been avoided, said researchers.
The impact was at least as much as could be achieved by persuading by changing other bad habits, such as smoking, and tackling problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure, said experts.
The research by scientists from the primary care research unit of Bio-Cruces-Bizkaia Health Research Institute said any increase in activity, no matter how small, translated into a significant reduction in mortality.
“Inactive patients who performed 10 minutes a day of moderate or five minutes of vigorous activity reduced mortality by 20 per cent,” the study found.
‘Never too late to take the first small steps’
Estimates suggest that more than one-quarter of adults live sedentary lives.
Scientists said many doctors doubted that it was worth trying to persuade those with unhealthy lifestyles to overhaul them – and should be encouraged by the findings.
They said many of those leading inactive lives might be spurred on by the news that even a 10-minute daily walk is enough to make a difference.
Dr Gonzalo Grandes, a researcher, said: “When primary healthcare professionals try to promote physical activity in patients who have been inactive for many years, it is easier to negotiate a small initial goal, such as including 10 minutes of moderate activity a day, which will benefit them and can later be increased progressively.”
Huw Edwards, chief executive of ukactive, said: “This study helps show that no matter what your age, ability or experience, it’s never too late to take the first small steps to a more active life.
“Modern living has become more sedentary, but even small changes to our daily activity levels can have a profound effect on our physical and mental health.
“From walking to the shops, to going for a swim, doing some gardening or trying a new exercise class, there are plenty of options and support available.”