Reduce risk of premature death by exercising more, studies suggest

People should try and achieve more physical activity each week to reduce their risk of death, new studies have suggested.

New research has found that people who meet the recommended levels of physical activity each week had a 40% reduced risk of premature death compared to those who are inactive.

It comes as further research confirmed that overweight people are more likely to die if they catch Covid-19.

The authors of the study said: “This should serve as an additional motivation for people to stay active and eat well during the current pandemic, as difficult as this may be for some.”

The research into the reduced risk of death from all causes among people who reached the recommended levels of physical activity each week examined data on more than 479,000 US adults.

The study, published in The BMJ, tracked the participants for almost nine years and found that almost 60,000 died.

Jogging stock
People who meet physical activity goals have a reduced risk of death (Ben Birchall/PA)

Only 16% of the participants fully met the recommended activity levels – in the US in 2018 this was 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity or at least 75 minutes of vigorous intensity exercise and muscle strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity on two days or more each week.

This is similar to NHS guidance, which also stresses the importance of being physically active every day.

The team of international researchers found that people who participated in the recommended levels of physical activity – both muscle strengthening and aerobic exercise – were 40% less likely to die than those who did not meet the quota.

Compared with participants who did not meet the recommended activity levels, those who engaged in sufficient muscle-strengthening activity had an 11% lower risk of death from any cause, while those who engaged in sufficient aerobic activity had a 29% lower risk of death from any cause.

It comes as researchers from the University of Glasgow published more research linking BMI and the risk of Covid-19.

The study, published in Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews, examined data on people taking part in the UK Biobank study.

Among 4,855 participants tested for coronavirus in hospital, 839 were positive and of these 189 died.

The authors found that BMI was associated strongly with positive test and risk of death related to Covid-19.

The link between BMI and risk of death was stronger among those under the age of 70 and stronger among people from BAME backgrounds – particularly those of South Asian and Afro-Caribbean heritage.

Naveed Sattar, professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, said: “Our findings suggest excess weight appears to be a stronger risk factor for bad outcomes in people under 70 years of age and in non-white races.

“If excess weight does prove to directly contribute to adverse Covid-19 outcomes, then tackling excess weight presents a modifiable risk factor for many in the community.

“This should serve as an additional motivation for people to stay active and eat well during the current pandemic, as difficult as this may be for some.”

Anecdotal evidence suggests people have been inspired to exercise more during lockdown – more than 858,000 people downloaded the Pubic Health England Couch to 5K app between March and the end of June – a 92% increase from the same period in 2019 when the app was downloaded 448,000 times.

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