Physical activity at any intensity will help you live longer, study finds

But being a couch potato for several hours a day will shorten your life span

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High levels of physical activity of any intensity, whether washing dishes or jogging, can lower the risk of an early death for middle-aged and older people, a new study suggests.

Conversely, being sedentary for 9½ hours a day or more (not counting sleeping) can increase your risk of dying early.

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Researchers led by professor Ulf Ekelund at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences in Oslo analyzed studies assessing physical activity and sedentary time with death ("all cause mortality").

Data from eight high quality studies involving 36,383 adults at least 40 years old (average age 62) were included. Activity levels were categorized into quarters, from least to most active, and participants were tracked for an average of 5.8 years, Science News reported.

Past guidelines have recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week.

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Examples of light intensity activity are walking slowly or light tasks such as cooking or washing dishes. Moderate activity is brisk walking, vacuuming or mowing the lawn, while vigorous activity includes jogging, carrying heavy loads or digging.

The researchers noted that deaths fell sharply as activity increased — 300 minutes of light activity or 24 minutes of moderate intensity a day.

But the lowest activity levels experienced the most deaths.

The researchers say this outcome “strengthens the view that any physical activity is beneficial and likely achievable for large segments of the population.”

This limited study focused only on U.S. and Western European residents at least 40 years old, so researchers say a larger study is needed to provide more precise results.

"Developing ways to limit sedentary time and increase activity at any level could considerably improve health and reduce mortality," the scientists concluded.

The study was published earlier this month in the journal BMJ.

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