Previous studies suggest that many premature deaths could be prevented by increasing physical activity. Until now, many people assumed that the amount of physical activity required to be effective is substantial (i.e., more than 30 minutes each day). In a new study, researchers from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) asked almost 5,000 participants aged 40 to 85 years to wear an accelerometer. This is a wearable technology that measures physical activity. Researchers monitored the participants’ physical activity over the next decade. They used the accelerometer data to examine the link between physical activity and mortality in U.S. adults. They estimated the number of deaths that could be prevented each year with modest increases in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity intensity (MVPA).

Being active each day has major health benefits

Increasing MVPA by 10, 20, or 30 minutes per day was associated with a 6.9%, 13.0%, and 16.9% decrease in the number of deaths per year. Overall, researchers found that approximately 110,000 deaths per year could be prevented if U.S. adults aged 40 to 85 years or older increased their moderate to vigorous physical activity by a small amount (such as by 10 minutes per day). There are similar benefits for men and women, as well as for Mexican American, non-Hispanic Black, and non-Hispanic White adults.

These findings support new strategies to improve physical activity for adults. This may reduce deaths in the United States.


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