1 in 12 deaths could be avoided with regular exercise

Saturday, 30 September, 2017

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It's well known that regular exercise is good for your health.

However, a new study across 17 countries has shown that as many as one in 12 deaths due to cardiovascular disease could be avoided with 30 minutes of physical activity, five days a week.

For those less inclined to exercise, their definition of physical activity is broad, including housework, transport and job-based movement.

Published in The Lancet, the study tracked 130,000 people in low-, medium- and high-income countries1. It confirms on a global scale that physical activity is associated with a lower risk of mortality and cardiovascular disease (including death from cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke or heart failure), irrespective of a person’s home country, other risk factors for disease, the type of physical activity and whether the activity is for leisure or if it is taken as part of daily transport, at work or housework.

WHO recommendation

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide and a major economic burden globally. It is estimated that 70% of cardiovascular disease deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries, where it is the most common cause of death.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that adults aged 18–64 years old do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week, as well as muscle-strengthening exercises at least two days a week2. But estimates suggest that almost a quarter of the world’s population is not meeting physical activity guidelines.

In Australia, the situation is not encouraging. "Approximately 60% of the Australian adult population do not meet the minimum recommendation of >150 min/week of physical activity, and this has not changed in two decades," according to Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute Head of Physical Activity Professor David Dunstan.

"Rapid modifications to work, transportation and domestic environments over the past two decades has led to diminished opportunities for physical activity throughout the day — most Australian adults now spend more time sitting (~9 h) than they spend sleeping."

So the message is clear: if you want to reduce the risk of developing heart disease or stroke, or dying of a heart attack, get moving.

1. Three high-income countries (Canada, Sweden, United Arab Emirates); seven upper-middle-income countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Poland, Turkey, Malaysia, South Africa); three lower-middle-income countries (China, Colombia, Iran); and four low-income-countries (Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Zimbabwe).

2. WHO guidelines available here.

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