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Dr. Tori Hudson, Portland, Oregon, Blog Healthline Blog

Current  exercise mantras for optimum health benefits and for some time now has been 150-300 minutes/week of moderate physical activity OR 75-150 minutes of vigorous activity per week.  This current study asked the question, is vigorous physical activity (versus moderate activity) associated with lower risk for death?

Active senior woman enjoying a healthy lifestyleResearchers analyzed data from more than 400,000 residents in the U.S. with an average age of 43.  Moderate physical activity was defined as activity that causes light sweating or slight increase in heart rate or breathing rates.   Vigorous activity was defined as activity that causes heavy sweating or large increases in heart rates or breathing rates.

During a mean follow-up period of 10 years, 37,000 deaths occurred.  Moderate or vigorous activity was reported in one third of participants.  When those individuals were compared with those with no activity, any moderate or vigorous activity was associated with a lower risk for death.   Of those who did moderate and vigorous activity, a greater proportion of vigorous activity was associated with lower mortality from any cause.  Individuals who  had >50% vigorous activity had a 17% lower risk for death than those with no vigorous activity.  Those with <50% vigorous activity had 10% lower risk.  Those individuals who had 150 to 300 minutes of moderate activity weekly that included at least 150 minutes of vigorous activity, had the lowest risk for death.

Commentary:  The current study, although weakened by a whole lot of variables, showed that a higher proportion of vigorous activity is better, an example being if 20-25 minutes DAILY, some of it should be vigorous…at least 50%.  Walk/run strategies could work…or perhaps some days/week it is a more rigorous walk/bike ride/exercise equipment/ basketball or similar.  Without specifics of calculating your heart rate and respiration rate and fitness level…vigorous activity would feel like you are “working it” or pushing it or huffing and puffing.  For those individuals with cardiovascular and/or pulmonary disease, please check with your health care provider to determine what is safe for you.   For those with disabilities that limit or even prevent exercise, please consult those on your support team to help adjust and figure out what kinds of movement are appropriate for your situation.

Remember, ANY amount of movement or exercise is a good thing.  If you are sedentary now or very low in your exercise for whatever reason, do not let this study deter you.  Figure out what you can do and what you can start with and over time, if appropriate for your medical situation, you can do more and maybe will want to and maybe even actually feel like doing more—– because it feels good ultimately and you know you are making choices that facilitate health on many levels – mind, body and spirit.


Reference:  Wang Y, et al.  Association of physical activity intensity with morality: A national cohort study of 403,681 adults.  JAMA Intern Med 2020; Nov 23.

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