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Posted at 07:00 AM ET, 08/17/2011

Exercise extends life, study says

There’s plenty of evidence that being physically active is one of the best things anyone can do for their health. Now, there’s new evidence that even just 15 minutes a day of physical activity can have a significant impact on longevity.

A team of scientists in Taiwan studied more than 400,000 Taiwanese people who participated in a standard medical screening program between 1996 and 2008 that involved collecting data about their exercise habits.

Compared with those were couch potatoes, people who exercised for an average of 92 minutes a week, which works out to about 15 minutes a day, were about 14 percent less likely to die for any reason over the next eight years, the researchers reported in the journal The Lancet. They were about 10 percent less likely to die from cancer and lived about three years longer on average, the researchers found.

Moreover, every additional 15 minutes of daily exercise cut their chances of dying from any cause by another 4 percent and from cancer by 1 percent, the researchers reported.

The benefits applied to all age groups and both sexes, as well as to those at risk for heart problems.

“If the minimum amount of exercise we suggest is adhered to, mortality from heart disease, diabetes and cancer could be reduced,” the researchers wrote. “This low volume of physical activity could play a central part in the global war against non-communicable diseases, reducing medical costs and health disparities.”

In a commentary accompanying the study, Anil Nigam and Martin Juneau of the Montreal Heart Institute and University of Montreal wrote that the “knowledge that as little as 15 minutes per day of exercise on most days of the week can substantially reduce an individual’s risk of dying could encourage many more individuals to incorporate a small amount of physical activity into their busy lives. Governments and health professionals both have major roles to play to spread this good news story and convince people of the importance of being at least minimally active.”

By  |  07:00 AM ET, 08/17/2011

 
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