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16-08-2011 | General practice | Article

Brief exercise prolongs life


Free abstract

Exercising for just 15 minutes a day, or 90 minutes a week, cuts all-cause and cancer-specific mortality, a Taiwanese study suggests.

The cohort study, published in the Lancet, found that a small amount of moderate-intensity exercise prolonged life by 3 years compared with no exercise.

"A recommendation of 15 minutes of daily exercise should be promoted to East Asian populations," the authors conclude. This is around half the amount currently recommended in the UK.

The Taiwanese study compared mortality across five categories of exercise volume, as self-reported by over 400,000 adults.

Compared with the inactive group, the low-volume group, who exercised for 92 minutes a week on average, had a 14% reduced risk of all-cause mortality and a 3-year increase in life expectancy. For those who exercised for at least 15 minutes a day, each additional 15-minutes further reduced all-cause and cancer mortality by 4% and 1%, respectively.

"These benefits were applicable to all age groups and both sexes, and to those with cardiovascular disease risks," write Dr Chi Pang Wen (National Health Research Institutes of Taiwan) and team.

GPs may find the Lancet study helpful in their efforts to encourage patients to exercise more. As the researchers observe: "Patients might be more easily motivated to exercise if their doctor recommends an easily manageable amount."

The value of a written ("green") exercise prescription was the subject of a recent Editorial in the BMJ (click here to view extract), along with other practical steps that the editorialists say chime with the notion of "nudging" patients towards healthier behaviour.

GP News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2011

By Joanna Lyford