How much exercise is best?

baseballNo one’s getting out of here alive. But most of us want to live full lives for as long as possible. One big component of good health is movement, but how much exercise is best? We don’t really know for sure. But we’re getting some good ideas from the records of big groups of people.

Here’re excerpts I found informative from a NYT article, The Right Dose of Exercise for a Longer Life. It’s about the results of two analyses of two large databases. I wrote this post to have a place I can quickly access the gist of the article, which is this:

…researchers with the National Cancer Institute, Harvard, and other institutions pooled data about people’s exercise habits for more than 661,000 adults, most of them middle-aged…they compared 14 years’ worth of death records for the group.

…exercise doesn’t come with dosing instructions. Is there a safe upper limit on exercise, beyond which its effects become potentially dangerous? Are some intensities of exercise more effective than others at prolonging lives?

Current guidelines call for 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. But whether that amount of exercise represents the ideal amount has not been certain.

… But, the people who did not exercise at all were at the highest risk of early death.

…those who exercised a little, not meeting the recommendations but doing something, lowered their risk of premature death by 20 percent.

Those completing 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, enjoyed greater longevity benefits and 31 percent less risk of dying during the 14-year period compared with those who never exercised.

The sweet spot for exercise benefits came among those who tripled the recommended level of exercise, working out moderately, mostly by walking, for a little more than an hour per day. Those people were 39 percent less likely to die prematurely than people who never exercised.

And a larger dose… doesn’t seem to be unsafe. The benefits plateaued, but never significantly declined. They didn’t gain significantly more health. But they also didn’t increase their risk of dying young. 

…these studies can’t prove that any exercise dose caused changes in mortality risk, only that exercise and death risks were associated.

Anyone, who’s physically capable, should try to “reach at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week and have around 20 to 30 minutes of that be vigorous activity.”