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Cut chronic disease risk by doing five times more exercise

Recommended exercise minimums need to increase significantly to reduce the risk of serious conditions

Weekly exercise rates should be five times higher than recommended, says a study published in the BMJ.


The importance of fitness. Picture: iStock

The World Health Organization (WHO) currently advises adults to do 600 metabolic equivalent minutes (MET) of exercise a week, but researchers reckon that needs to rise to between 3,000 and 4,000 MET minutes.

Teams in the USA and Australia analysed 174 studies published from 1980-2016 into the relationship between exercise and disease. They found that higher levels of overall physical activity were strongly associated with lower risk of breast and bowel cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

General advice is to be more physically active at work, engage more in domestic activities such as housework and gardening and opt for active transportation such as walking and cycling.

But researchers found that most health gains occurred at an activity level of more than 3,000 MET minutes a week.

A person can achieve that by a daily routine of climbing stairs for 10 minutes, vacuuming for 15 minutes, gardening for 20 minutes, running for 20 minutes, walking briskly for 25 minutes or cycling for 25 minutes.

‘With the population ageing, and an increasing number of cardiovascular and diabetes deaths since 1990, greater intervention to promote physical activity is required’ said lead author Hmwe Kyu.

Kyu HH, Bachman VF, Alexander LT et al (2016) Physical activity and risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes, ischemic heart disease and ischemic stroke events: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. BMJ. doi: 10.1136/bmj.i3857

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