Doing this for 11 minutes a day helps ward off heart disease, cancer

CAMBRIDGE, United Kingdom — Walking at a brisk pace for just 11 minutes a day slashes the risk of a premature death by almost a quarter, new research reveals. A team from the University of Cambridge says around 1,100 steps — half the recommended number — protects against cardiovascular disease and some cancers. The study of more than 30 million people around the world is the largest of its kind.

Results show just 75 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise lowers mortality rates by 23 percent.

“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,” says Dr. Soren Brage from the MRC Epidemiology Unit in a media release.

Researchers add that one in five middle-aged Brits are physically inactive. Not having enough time to exercise and being too tired are the main reasons many people give for their sedentary lifestyle. The University of Cambridge team pooled data from 196 peer-reviewed papers involving 94 large cohorts.

Additional advantages beyond the 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity advised by health experts were marginal. However, even half this amount came with significant benefits, reducing risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease by seven and 17 percent, respectively. Rates of some specific cancers fell by 14 to 26 percent — including those in the head and neck, blood, bone marrow, and digestive system. Tumors that develop in the lungs, liver, womb, colon, and breasts dropped by three to 11 percent.

Older woman walking
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1 in 10 early deaths could be preventable through walking more

Two in three participants reported moderate-intensity activity levels below 150 minutes per week. Less than one in 10 managed more than 300 minutes per week.

“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,” adds Professor James Woodcock from the MRC Epidemiology Unit.

The researchers calculated that if everyone in the studies participated in the equivalent of at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity, around one in six (16%) early deaths would be prevented. One in nine (11%) cases of cardiovascular disease and one in 20 (5%) cases of cancer would also be prevented.

However, even if everyone managed at least 75 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity, around one in 10 early deaths would be prevented, the researchers estimate. One in 20 cases of cardiovascular disease and nearly one in 30 (3%) cases of cancer would be prevented.

“Moderate activity doesn’t have to involve what we normally think of exercise, such as sports or running. Sometimes, replacing some habits is all that is needed. 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 grand kids. Doing activities that you enjoy and that are easy to include in your weekly routine is an excellent way to become more active,” concludes Dr. Leandro Garcia from Queen’s University Belfast.

The study is published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

South West News Service writer Mark Waghorn contributed to this report.

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