About 15,000 Norwegian men born between 1923 and 1932 submitted themselves for health checks in 1972-73. During these health checks, the researchers collected information on height, weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, smoking status and physical activity levels. They were categorized into the following groups according to their exercise levels:
- Light exercise (walking or cycling, including to/from work for at least 4 hours per week)
- Moderate exercise (formal exercise, sporting activities, heavy gardening for at least 4 hours per week)
- Vigorous exercise (hard training or competitive sports several times a week).
- After analyisng all of the data, the researchers found that more than 1 hour of physical activity per week was linked with a 32-56% decrease in risk.
- For vigorous physical activity, less than an hour per week was linked with a reduced risk of 23-37% for death from any cause.
- Men who did regular, moderate to vigorous exercise, lived for 5 years longer on average than sedentary men, even when the researchers controlled for the risk of diseases that increase with age, including heart disease and stroke, the researchers said.
- Overall, 30 minutes of light or vigorous physical activity, 6 days a week, was linked to a 40% reduction in risk of death from any cause over the 12 year period.
What to make of this
With this type of study it is difficult to be conclusive about the exact cause and effect, however, even if it was only half accurate, it would be worthwhile doing the exercise. Simply walking 30 minutes a day is easy to do in most cases. Even with some of the possible limitations in the study, the researchers said the differences between the physically active people and the sedentary group was massive.
I have written other blogposts about the benefits of exercise on memory, creativity, and other health factors. This research is just another reason why everyone should be doing more simple exercise. Our bodies are designed to move. They are not designed to be sedentary for hours every day. If simply walking everyday can create the type of health benefit described here, imagine the difference in our society if everyone decided to start doing this. The authors of this research said that a wide range of health problems could be prevented by this simple lifestyle change (increasing physical activity). If you have an issue that is stopping you from doing the exercise you want to do (or need to do), do something about addressing it. Your body will thank you for it.