A little bit of activity does you good!
The best laid plans of mice and men ….. As the saying goes.
Well my activity plans were totally scuppered last month whilst I was visiting Cape Town for the wedding of my beautiful step-daughter to her South African fiancé. Although we were going primarily for the wedding we did of course plan to do a lot of sight-seeing and one thing I was especially looking forward to was hiking up Table Mountain.
I got a group of us together by email and organised a guide to take us up the “India Venster” route of Table Mountain. But then…. Calamity. Two days before we were due to leave I did something to my back that made walking difficult and a hike out of the question!
However, we did of course have a wonderful time and my back slowly recovered, but although my grand plans for activity didn´t quite come off I was able to console myself with some interesting research findings from Taiwan. These researchers decided to ask a very pertinent question – “what´s the minimum amount of physical activity that will have health benefits?” You might be surprised by the results.
Over 400, 000 Taiwanese healthy adults were followed up for around 8 years. Each year they completed a questionnaire about their specific leisure time physical activities, how much, what and so on. The scientists were then able to ascribe the following categories to the population; inactive (no physical activity or less than 60 minutes per week), low volume (91 minutes per week), medium volume (222 minutes per week), high volume (361 minutes per week) and very high volume (523 minutes per week).
They also measured the incidence of diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease and the cause of death in those who died during the study period. Statistical analysis was performed to account for differences in age, gender, smoking and alcohol consumption and tests were performed to determine the risk of death from any cause, from cancer and from a cardiovascular condition.
The results showed clear benefits of being active. The more physical activity you take the longer you live. However, what was most interesting to me was that compared with those who were inactive, even as little as 15 minutes of physical activity (of moderate intensity) per day provided a reduction in all-cause and all-cancer mortality. This reduction in mortality amounted to an extra 3 years of life!*
Even though I didn’t get to hike up Table Mountain I certainly did a fair bit of walking each day which, based on this research, will probably stand me in good stead for the future. So don´t despair, even a little physical activity is better than no physical activity, meaning there really is no excuse!
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*Minimum amount of physical activity for reduced mortality and extended life expectancy: a prospective cohort study. Chi Pang Wen,Lancet 2011; 378: 1244–53
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