You know that exercise is good for you. You’ve been told, in fact, that exercising a little bit will reduce your risk of heart disease and premature death by, well, a little bit. You have been told, or you assumed, that exercising a lot would reduce your risk of heart disease and premature death by, well, a lot.
What is the Best Amount of Exercise?
Based on the above advice, many people choos one of two options. Many people don’t exercise at all because they think that doing something they dislike just to increase their lifespan by a few months just isn’t worth it. Others exercise like crazy because they think it will improve their health and lifespan dramatically.
What choice have you made? Are you a couch potato? An exercise fanatic? Well, guess what? You shouldn’t be either because medical studies show that exercising a little bit reduces your risk of heart disease and premature death dramatically. Exercising beyond an optimal level has, at best, only a minor positive health impact.
The optimal level of and intensity of exercise is 450 minutes, or 6-1/2 hours, per week of moderate exercise, a study of 661,000 mostly middle-aged adults in the USA and Sweden concluded. “Those people (who exercised about 6-1/2 hours per week) were 39 percent less likely to die prematurely than people who never exercised,” reported The New York Times article “The Right Dose of Exercise for a Longer Life.” “At that point, the benefits plateaued.”
Health groups recommend that people exercise moderately for about 150 minutes per week or intensely for about 75 minutes per week. You are exercising moderately when your heart rate is 55 to 69 percent of your maximum heart rate, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. You are exercising intensely when your heart rate is 70 to 89 percent of your maximum heart rate. Your maximum heart rate is 220 beats per minute minus your age. You are exercising moderately when you are walking briskly, roughly 4 miles per hour. You are exercising intensely when you are running.
The study showed that people who did no exercise had the highest risk of premature death. People who exercised moderately between one and 149 minutes weekly reduced their risk of premature death by 20 percent. People who exercised moderately for 150 minutes weekly reduced this risk by 31 percent. As people increased their exercise from 150 to 450 minutes weekly, their risk of early death declined to 39 percent lower than people who didn’t exercise.
People who exercised more than that, though, did not live longer. In fact, people who exercised 1,500 minutes weekly had about the same lifespan as people who exercised 150 minutes weekly. “Those few individuals engaging in 10 times or more the recommended exercise dose gained about the same reduction in mortality risk as people who simply met the guidelines,” The New York Times reported. “They did not gain significantly more health bang for all of those additional hours spent sweating.”
The 14-year study of 661,000 Americans and Swedish people did not figure out the benefits of intense exercise. However, a study of more than 200,000 Australians did. This second study concluded that people who exercised intensely were “9 to 13 percent less likely to die over a six-year period than those who engaged in only moderate activity,” reported “What’s the optimal amount of exercise?”
So, how much intense exercise will increase your lifespan? Here’s the good news: The answer is “not much,” researcher Klaus Gebel said. “Our research indicates that even small amounts of vigorous activity could help reduce your risk of early death,” he said.