It’s easy to fall into the habit of skipping exercise because you’re busy with work or chores. Yet according to a study, having a sedentary lifestyle for at least 20 years is linked to twice the risk of premature death, especially compared to those who exercise regularly.
Results from the Trøndelag Health Study (the HUNT study) was presented at ESC Congress 2019 and the World Congress of Cardiology.
The HUNT study was conducted to determine how changes in physical activity within two decades were linked to “subsequent death from all causes and from cardiovascular disease.”
Other studies on the association between physical activity and longevity only ask volunteers about their level of physical activity once and followed them for several years. However, physical activity is a behavior that constantly changes, highlighting the importance of looking into how these changes over time are linked to the risk of death later in life.
Physical activity levels linked to premature death risk
For all three time points, the volunteers reported their frequency and duration of leisure time physical activity. The researchers then examined data from the first and third surveys.
Data for the analysis was obtained from 23,146 male and female volunteers. Physical activity was classified as:
- Moderate (Less than two hours a week.)
- High (Two or more hours per week.)
The volunteers were divided into groups based on their activity levels for each survey. The physical activity data were linked to information on deaths until the end of 2013 via the Norwegian Cause of Death Registry.
The risk of death in the two physical activity groups was compared to the reference group, which included participants who reported a high level of exercise during both surveys.
Analyses were also adjusted for factors that influence prognosis:
- Blood pressure
- Body mass index (BMI)
- Education level
Unlike volunteers in the reference group, participants who were inactive in both 1984-1986 and 2006-2008 had twice the risk of premature death and a 2.7-fold greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
Compared to the reference group, participants with moderate activity at both time points had a 60 percent and 90 percent greater risk of all-cause and cardiovascular deaths, respectively.
Exercising consistently is key
Dr. Trine Moholdt, a study author from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology at Trondheim, Norway, explained that to reap the maximum health benefits of physical activity and prevent premature all-cause and cardiovascular death, people must be physically active consistently.
Moholdt noted that even if you had a sedentary lifestyle, you can still reduce your risk by exercising later in life. Adults should have at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity a week to effectively boost their overall well-being.
Instead of focusing on how much you’re exercising, Moholdt suggests setting goals to be more physically fit. Consult a trusted physician for activities that suit your health condition.
Even smaller amounts of activity can help you be more physically fit, as long as your workout “makes you breathe heavily.” (Related: If you have an 8-hour desk job, exercise for 30 minutes daily to significantly improve your health.)
Set aside some time to go to the gym, or sneak in mini-workouts throughout a regular day. Moholdt recommends any exercise that you might enjoy, such as:
- Using the stairs at work instead of the elevator.
- Walking instead of driving to your destination.
- Getting off the bus one stop early and walking the rest of the way.
- Exercise during work breaks. Break out a sweat in the office break room by doing jumping jacks or squats.
- Going for a long walk with your dog.
- Enjoying a walk around the neighborhood with your family.
- Following online workout videos if you can’t leave the house.
Some participants changed categories between surveys and those who went from inactive to highly active had a mortality risk “between those who were continually active or continually sedentary.” On the other hand, volunteers who went from highly active to inactive had a similar risk of dying like those who were inactive at both surveys.
Moholdt said that it’s never too late to start exercising even if you’ve been sedentary for most of your life. Starting exercise sooner ensures that you also see positive results sooner.
Moholdt concluded that you should start and maintain good exercise habits as early as you can. Being physically active doesn’t just help prevent premature death, it also helps improve your mental and physical health. Exercising regularly is key to having a longer and healthier life.
For more articles on the benefits of exercising and maintaining a healthy weight, visit Slender.news.