11 Minutes a Day: The Surprising Power of a Brisk Walk to Reduce Early Death
Walking is often overlooked as an effective way to maintain health. However, a landmark study by the University of Cambridge and associated researchers has revolutionised this common misconception. A mere 11 minutes of brisk walking daily can significantly reduce the risk of premature death.
By simply engaging in this moderate-intensity physical activity, individuals may not only ward off early death but also lower their risk of several diseases, including heart disease and various types of cancers.
A Global Concern
Cardiovascular diseases, encompassing heart disease and stroke, have been recorded as the leading cause of death worldwide. Statistics show that these afflictions were responsible for a staggering 17.9 million deaths in 2019. Moreover, in 2017, cancer claimed 9.6 million lives.
Compounding these alarming statistics is the global rise in sedentary lifestyles. Modern work environments, increased screen time, and urban living conditions have led many to spend the majority of their day seated, with minimal physical activity. This sedentary trend not only exacerbates health risks but also highlights the urgency of finding accessible and manageable ways to improve overall health.
Given these challenges, the importance of discovering accessible means to enhance health becomes paramount. The latest findings, advocating for just 11 minutes of brisk walking daily, offer a beacon of hope in this context, suggesting significant health improvements without demanding drastic lifestyle changes.
With the NHS advocating 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week, the latest findings have significant implications for the general public's approach to health.
The Largest Study of Its Kind
This groundbreaking study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, draws from a meta-analysis that pooled and analysed cohort data from 196 peer-reviewed articles, covering over 30 million participants from 94 large study cohorts.
Dr Soren Brage from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge stated: “If you are someone who finds the idea of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week a bit daunting, then our findings should be good news.
"Doing some physical activity is better than doing none. This is also a good starting position – if you find that 75 minutes a week is manageable, then you could try stepping it up gradually to the full recommended amount.”
Interestingly, the research team found that two out of three individuals reported activity levels below 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity, and fewer than one in ten managed more than 300 minutes per week.
The Impact of 11 Minutes a Day
Results showed that even half the recommended level, i.e., 75 minutes per week, came with substantial benefits, yielding a 23% lower risk of early death. Further, 75 minutes per week of moderate activity was shown to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 17% and specific cancer types by 7-26%.
Professor James Woodcock, also of Cambridge University, emphasised: “We know that physical activity, such as walking or cycling, is good for you, especially if you feel it raises your heart rate. But what we’ve found is there are substantial benefits to heart health and reducing your risk of cancer even if you can only manage 10 minutes every day.”
Dr Leandro Garcia from Queen’s University Belfast also highlighted how moderate activity does not necessarily mean traditional exercise. “For example, try to walk or cycle to your work or study place instead of using a car, or engage in active play with your kids or grandkids. Doing activities that you enjoy and that are easy to include in your weekly routine is an excellent way to become more active.”
The groundbreaking findings from this study herald a new chapter in personal health and wellness, emphasising that monumental health benefits don't necessarily require monumental efforts.
Just a mere 11-minute brisk walk daily, an activity so simple and accessible, can significantly enhance our health prospects.
This isn't just about exercise; it's about integrating small, manageable moments of activity into our daily lives, moments that can lead to longer, healthier, and more joyful years.
Dr Brage's words resonate with a profound truth that should echo in all our daily routines: “Doing some physical activity is better than doing none,” serves as a beacon of hope. It's a reminder that every step counts, no matter how small. In this easily attainable goal lies the potential for each of us to adopt a lifestyle that marries joy with well-being. It's a transformative message, reshaping our perspectives on health, time, and life itself.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
1. What counts as moderate-intensity physical activity?
Activities that raise your heart rate and make you breathe faster without hindering your ability to speak. Examples include brisk walking, dancing, riding a bike, playing tennis, and hiking.
2. How much moderate-intensity activity is recommended by the NHS?
150 minutes per week. However, this study shows that even 75 minutes per week can significantly reduce the risk of early death and diseases.
3. What percentage of early deaths could be prevented with 75 minutes of activity per week?
Around one in ten (10%) early deaths could be prevented by managing at least 75 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity.
4. Is there any reduction in benefits beyond 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity?
Beyond 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity, the additional benefits in terms of reduced risk of disease or early death were found to be marginal.
This article is for general information only and is not intended to treat or diagnose medical conditions. If in doubt please check with your GP first.
Garcia, L, Pearce, M, Abbas, A, Mok, A & Strain, T et al. Non-occupational physical activity and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and mortality outcomes: a dose-response meta-analysis of large prospective studies. British Journal of Sports Medicine; 28 Feb 2023; DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2022-105669.
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