Well-Being Longevity

Exercising more than recommended could prolong your life: study

“We have known for a long time that moderate and intense levels of physical exercise can reduce a person’s risk of both atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and mortality.”

Story at a glance

  • Exceeding recommended weekly levels of exercise could reduce adults’ all-cause mortality risks, according to new research.

  • However, after a certain threshold of exercise time, no additional benefits were seen.

  • The findings reinforce the importance of regular exercise.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommends American adults complete 150-300 minutes of moderate physical activity each week or 75-150 minutes per week of vigorous physical activity. 

Although a 2018 study found around 80 percent of U.S. adults and adolescents are insufficiently active, those who exceed HHS’ thresholds are more likely to live longer, according to new research published in the American Heart Association’s (AHA) journal Circulation.

The study also found no harmful cardiovascular health effects among individuals completing four times the minimum recommended physical activity levels. However, exceeding this threshold also did not result in any additional reduction in death risks. 

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In an effort to better understand whether exercise above recommended amounts led to benefits or drawbacks to individuals’ cardiovascular health, researchers assessed the physical activity and medical records of more than 100,000 people over the span of 30 years. 

While those who met the recommended levels of moderate and vigorous activity had a 20-21 percent and 19 percent lower risk of all-cause mortality, respectively, participants who completed two to four times that amount exhibited even greater risk reductions. 

Those in the latter group who completed more vigorous activity than recommended had a 21-23 percent lower risk of death, while those who completed more moderate activity saw a 26-31 percent lower risk. 

Data were gleaned from the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study, from 1988 through 2018. The majority of participants assessed were white females, while average participant age was 66. 

Measurements of physical activity were self-reported. Exercise like walking, weightlifting and calisthenics were classified as moderate activity; jogging, running, swimming and biking were considered vigorous activities. 

In general, physical activity at or above recommended levels was associated with lower risks of cardiovascular disease-related death and all-cause death.

“We have known for a long time that moderate and intense levels of physical exercise can reduce a person’s risk of both atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and mortality,” said former AHA president Donna K. Arnett, who was not involved in the study, in a press release.

“We have also seen that getting more than 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or more than 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical exercise each week may reduce a person’s risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease even further, so it makes sense that getting those extra minutes of exercise may also decrease mortality,” Arnett added.  

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