Women's Health Matters

Text Size
Jump to body content

Even small amounts of exercise may have health benefits: 15 minutes per day extends life expectancy

August 15, 2011

By Patricia Nicholson

A new study has found that even a small amount of exercise may have an impact on health and life expectancy: 15 minutes per day of moderate-intesity activity, such as brisk walking, lowered risk of death and added to longevity.

Previous research has shown that people who are active are likely to live longer and have lower risks of developing many health conditions, including diabetes and heart disease. According to background information provided in the study, research evidence has shown that 150 minutes of physical activity per week is the optimum level for preventing disease and living a long life. That translates into just over 21 minutes per day of activity, or half an hour of exercise five times per week.

Because many people find that goal hard to achieve, the question that researchers in Taiwan set out to answer was: does exercising less than the optimal amount have any health benefits?

The researchers followed a group of more than 400,000 people for an average of about eight years. At the beginning of the study, all of the participants provided information about the amount of exercise they did every week. The researchers used this information to divide the study subjects into five groups based on activity levels, ranging from inactive to very high activity level.

They found that the people in the low activity group did have some health benefits over those who were inactive. The study results indicate that people who got 92 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week – or 15 minutes per day – had a 14 per cent lower risk of dying than the inactive people. Those who exercised moderately for 15 minutes per day also extended their life expectancy by three years compared to inactive people. An example of a moderate-intensity activity is brisk walking.

As expected, health gains were greater for people in the higher-level activity groups. Every additional 15 minutes of moderate exercise per day bought another four per cent reduction in death risk, compared to those who only got 15 minutes of activity per day. The health benefits were seen in both men and women, in all age groups, including people who were at risk of cardiovascular disease.

The study findings suggest that while the greatest health benefits are associated with higher levels of exercise, even 15 minutes per day of moderate activity can lower the risk of dying and add to life expectancy.

The study was published online in the Lancet on Aug. 16, 2011.

Jump to top page

  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital