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Exercise is essential for a long, healthy life, but we may need to do it more than the government recommends. A lot more.

That’s the message researchers from Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health convey in a recent study published in the journal Circulation. They found that doubling or even quadrupling the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ suggested weekly dose of moderate exercise (150 minutes) or its recommended amount of intense activity (75 minutes) resulted in as much as a 31 percent reduction in the risk of mortality compared with a control group over the course of 30 years.

Tracking the average amount of self-reported physical activity among more than 116,000 participants with an average age of 66 in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, researchers reported some surprising conclusions:

  • Participants who met the government’s guidelines for vigorous exercise (jogging, running, swimming, bicycling, and other aerobic activity) were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease (a 31 percent risk reduction) than their less aerobic-focused counterparts (25 percent), but they were slightly more likely than the lighter exercisers to die from other causes.
  • The same held true for those in each category who doubled or quadrupled the amount of time spent on their chosen workouts. Intense exercisers enjoyed up to a 23 percent lower risk of death from all causes, while moderate movers were up to 31 percent less likely to succumb to all-cause mortality.
  • Interestingly, those who exercised more than four times the suggested amount per week did not appear to lower their mortality risk beyond that of those who simply doubled or quadrupled their workout times.

This article originally appeared as “More Exercise = Longer Lifespan ” in the January/February 2023 issue of Experience Life.

Craig Cox
Craig Cox

Craig Cox is an Experience Life deputy editor who explores the joys and challenges of healthy aging.

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