Walking at brisk pace for just 11 minutes a day slashes risk of premature death by ‘almost a quarter’
"If you are someone who finds the idea of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week daunting, then our findings should be good news.”
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Walking at a brisk pace for just 11 minutes a day slashes the risk of a premature death by almost a quarter, according to new research. 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. It found just 75 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise lowered mortality rates by 23 per cent.
Dr Soren Brage, the head study author, said: "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." One-in-five middle-aged Brits are physically inactive.
Not having enough time and being too tired are the main reasons cited. 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. But even half this amount came with significant benefits - reducing risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer by 17 and seven percent respectively.
Rates of some specific cancers fell by 14 to 26 per cent - including those of the head and neck, blood, bone marrow and digestive system. Tumours that began in the lung, liver, womb, bowel and breast dropped by three to eleven per cent.
Two in three participants reported activity levels below 150 min per week of moderate-intensity activity. Less than one in ten managed more than 300 min per week. Professor James Woodcock, a co author of the study, added: "We know physical activity, such as walking or cycling, is good for you, especially if you feel it raises your heart rate.
"But what we have 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." The researchers calculated that if everyone in the studies had done the equivalent of at least 150 min per week of moderate-intensity activity, around one in six (16 per cent) early deaths would be prevented.
One in nine (11 per cent) cases of cardiovascular disease and one in 20 (five per cent) cases of cancer would be prevented. However, even if everyone managed at least 75 min per week of moderate-intensity physical activity, around one in ten (10 per cent) early deaths would be prevented.
One in twenty (five per cent) cases of cardiovascular disease and nearly one in thirty (three per cent) cases of cancer would be prevented. Dr Leandro Garcia, from Queen’s University Belfast, said: "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 grandkids. Doing activities that you enjoy and that are easy to include in your weekly routine is an excellent way to become more active."
Most fitness trackers, such as the Fitbit, encourage users to walk 10,000 steps a day. The concept originated in Japan in the run-up to the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
A pedometer – called ‘Manpo-Kei’ which translates as ‘10,000 steps meter’ – became popular among the health-conscious. The study is available to read in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.