People who get even a small amount of exercise may be less likely to die prematurely than their more sedentary counterparts, a research review suggests.
Researchers examined data from 10 previous studies that used accelerometers that track movement to measure the exact amount of active and sedentary time spent by more than 36,000 older adults. After an average follow-up period of 6.7 years, a total of 2,149 people died.
Compared to people who got virtually no exercise, people who got the most physical activity were 73% less likely to die during the study, regardless of how intensely they worked out. With even a little exercise, people were 52% less like to die.
When researchers looked at people who did light workouts, they again found that even a little bit of low-intensity exercise was associated with a 40% lower risk of death during the study compared with doing nothing at all. People who got the most light-intensity exercise were 62% less likely to die.
Physical inactivity has long been linked to an increased risk of premature death and a wide variety of chronic health problems, but much of this evidence has been based on surveys that might not provide an accurate picture of how much exercise people really get.
People who were sedentary for 10 hours a day were 48% more likely to die during the study than people who moved more. Twelve hours a day of sedentary time was associated with an almost tripled risk of death during the study.
One limitation of the study is that it looked at men and women combined, making it impossible to determine if there are any sex-based differences in the connection between activity levels and longevity. Participants were also middle-aged and older, so it’s unclear if results would be similar for younger adults.