Any exercise-from light to vigorous-can have a massive beneficial effect on your health and longevity. But doing too little won't help. People who walk or cycle for less than an hour a week didn't see much benefit, say researchers from the Oslo Study.
The findings are based on surveys of around 15,000 men, born between 1923 and 1932, and whose health and physical activity was monitored in 1972. The analysis was repeated in the year 2000, and the men who were still alive were tracked for a further 12 years.
The activity levels of the men were divided into four categories: sedentary (no exercise); light (walking or cycling for at least four hours a week); moderate (formal exercise, sporting activity, or heavy gardening for at least four hours a week), and vigorous (hard training or competitive sports several times a week).
The men who did 30 minutes of light or vigorous exercise six days a week had a 40 per cent lower risk of a premature death. And those who did moderate to vigorous physical activity were likely to live five years longer than those who were sedentary and did no exercise.
The impact of exercise is equivalent to quitting smoking, the researchers conclude.
(Source: British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2015; 49 (11): 743)