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Get 150 minutes/week of moderate physical activity: It doesn’t matter how

Posted on March 22, 2018

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute have shown that people who engage in more minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity enjoy health benefits (measured here by likelihood of dying during the study period), but it does not matter how those minutes are accumulated. Doing more activity in short increments of time had similar benefits to exercising in increments of 10 minutes at a time or more. Moderate physical activity is defined as brisk walking, or slow jogging. The findings were published Thursday, March 22, 2018, in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Post-doctoral fellow Pedro Saint-Maurice, Ph.D., and colleagues, compared accelerometer-measured physical activity in roughly 5,000 adults aged 40 and older who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a nationally representative study, and followed them prospectively over seven years. When they compared participants with lower or higher numbers of minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, they determined that the increments in which those minutes were accumulated, in bursts of 10 minutes, 5 minutes, or even shorter, resulted in the same statistically-significant reductions in risk of death over the study period. Similar to findings from previous studies, they observed increasing health benefit with increasing minutes of exercise recorded by the accelerometer. This study evaluated risk for death from any cause; future research is needed to determine if the benefits of 150 minutes/week of moderate physical activity accumulated at any incremental duration can apply to specific health outcomes, such as cancer incidence, or cancer-specific mortality. The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans states, “for substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity.”

Reference: Saint-Maurice PF, et al. Moderate to vigorous physical activity and all-cause mortality: Do bouts matter? J Am Heart Assoc. March 22, 2018. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1161/JAHA.117.007678