Completing 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week (150 mins a week) is associated with a reduced risk of death and cardiovascular disease, according to the largest study of physical activity tracking 130000 people in 17 countries published in The Lancet.
Being highly active (750 mins a week) is associated with an even greater reduction, and the authors found that this was more achievable for those who built physical activity into their day through active transport, job type, or housework.
The study confirms on a global scale that physical activity is associated with a lower risk of mortality and cardiovascular disease (including death from cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, or heart failure), irrespective of a person’s home country, other risk factors for disease, the type of physical activity and whether the activity is for leisure or if it is taken as part of daily transport, at work, or housework.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommend that adults aged 18-64 years old do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week, as well as muscle strengthening exercises at least two days a week . But estimates suggest that almost a quarter (23%) of the world’s population are not meeting physical activity guidelines.
Previous research into the benefits of physical activity has generally focussed on high-income countries, while research in low- and middle-income countries has been limited. Typically, studies also focus on exercise in leisure time, which is less common in lower-income countries.
“Meeting physical activity guidelines by walking for as little as 30 minutes most days of the week has a substantial benefit, and higher physical activity is associated with even lower risks,” says lead author Dr Scott Lear, Professor of Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Health Sciences and Pfizer/Heart & Stroke Foundation Chair in Cardiovascular Prevention Research at St. Paul’s Hospital in Canada.
“The affordability of other cardiovascular disease interventions, such as generic drugs and consuming fruits and vegetables, are often beyond the reach of many people in low-income and middle-income countries. However, physical activity represents a low cost approach to preventing cardiovascular disease, and our study provides robust evidence to support public health interventions to increase all forms of physical activity in these regions.”
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide and a major economic burden globally. It is estimated that 70% of cardiovascular disease deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, where it is the most common cause of death.