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The role exercise plays in prolonging life is almost miraculous. As the NHS points out, it is free, has an immediate effect and doesn’t require getting a GP’s approval. The main benefits of exercise are its ability to reduce your risk of major illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer. It can also lower your risk of early death by up to 30 percent.
Furthermore, you don’t need to do much exercise to see the benefits, a new study suggests.
This is the key finding of new research published in the British Journal of Medicine (BMJ).
Researchers found that people who sat for about eight to 10 hours daily but managed to fit in about 11 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise a day were less likely to die early than those who only got about two minutes of exercise a day.
Moderate-intensity exercise is defined as any activity that raises your heart rate, causes you to breathe faster and feel warmer.
Vigorous activity is when you’re breathing hard and fast, and your heart rate has gone up quite a bit.
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The findings are based on the analysis of data from wearable activity trackers worn by 44,370 middle-aged men and women in the U.S., Norway and Sweden.
The participants were followed for four to 14.5 years. In that period, 3,451 of the participants died.
Though the study does not reveal the optimal amount of sleep you need to counter the harmful effects of sitting down, it does show the benefits that even small amounts can bring, the researchers concluded.
What are the current UK guidelines on exercise?
To stay healthy, adults are advised to be active every day and aim to achieve at least 150 minutes of physical activity over a week through a variety of activities.
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Inactivity is described by the Department of Health as a “silent killer”.
Evidence is emerging that sedentary behaviour, such as sitting or lying down for long periods, is bad for your health.
Common examples of sedentary behaviour include watching TV, using a computer, using the car for short journeys and sitting down to read, talk or listen to music.
“This type of behaviour is thought to increase your risk of developing many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes, as well as weight gain and obesity,” warns the NHS.
In addition to maintaining an active lifestyle, the dietary pattern you follow will have an impact on your lifespan.
Consuming a wide variety of plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and beans, may reduce disease risk and promote longevity.
Many studies link a plant-rich diet to a lower risk of premature death, as well as a reduced risk of cancer, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, depression, and brain deterioration.
It is also imperative to cut down on saturated fats – too much saturated fat can increase the amount of a fatty substance called cholesterol in the blood, which increases your risk of developing heart disease.
According to the NHS, regularly consuming foods and drinks high in sugar also increases your risk of obesity and tooth decay.
What’s more, eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure, which increases your risk of getting heart disease or having a stroke, it adds.
Adults are advised to consume no more than 6g of salt a day (2.4g sodium) – that’s around one teaspoon.
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