Two New Studies Seek the “Right” Amount of Exercise

May 8, 2015

What Is the Ideal Amount of Exercise?

The above question is one that has been debated for some time, with new magic numbers coming to the fore every few years. While it is virtually universally agreed that an entirely sedentary lifestyle is unhealthy, can it also be unhealthy to exercise too much? The New York Times cites two new, large-scale studies that shed some light on these questions.

New Research, New Conclusions

Currently, government and health organizations recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. Whether or not this is the ideal or minimum amount of exercise and whether too much exercise can potentially be as detrimental as too little are questions that researchers sought to answer.

Researchers from the National Cancer Institute, Harvard University and other institutions compiled data from 661,000 adults to learn about the effects of various exercise habits. Participants were classified by time spent exercising, from none at all to 10 times the current recommendation of 150 minutes per week. This data was compared with death records for the group. The results, not surprisingly, correlated increased exercise with a lowered risk of premature death, to a point. Those who didn’t exercise, had the highest risk of early death; those who exercised a little, but did not meet 150 minutes per week still lowered their risk by 20 percent; those who met the recommended guidelines had a 31 percent lower risk; and those who tripled the recommended dose saw the highest gains, with a 39 percent lower chance of dying prematurely. The group that was 10 times the recommended amount, or 25+ hours per week, didn’t see any greater gains then the group that was meeting the guidelines. They also didn’t increase their risk of dying young. So, while spending more time in the gym won’t exponentially increase your lifespan, there also isn’t any risk of working out “too much.”

The second study found similar conclusions regarding the intensity of exercise. Australian researchers examined survey data of 200,000 adults to determine ratios of moderate versus vigorous exercise, e.g., walking vs. running. This data was again compared to death statistics. And again, there was significant evidence that meeting exercise guidelines substantially reduced the risk of early death, even if that exercise was only moderate. However, the study also determined that vigorous exercise further lowered the risk of premature death—by an additional 9 percent for those who spent up to 30 percent of weekly exercise time in vigorous activity, and 13 percent for those who spent more than 30 percent in vigorous activity.

Prescription for a Healthier Life

While there is still no magic number associated with the “right” amount of exercise, a scientist from the second study recommends “at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week and have around 20 to 30 minutes of that be vigorous activity.” Going beyond that, does not seem to offer any health risks and may, in fact, help further reduce the risk of premature death. Minor lifestyle changes, like employing an adjustable-height desk, make it easier to stay active throughout the day and meet the recommended guidelines.

You can find the original article here.

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