Exercise bar lowered by half

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  • Published 17.08.11

New Delhi, Aug. 16: Just 15 minutes of daily exercise can reduce the risk of dying from heart disease and cancer, according to a new study that shows health benefits springing from half the standard prescribed exercise of 30 minutes a day.

The study by doctors in Taiwan also suggests that 15 minutes of exercise a day can extend a person’s life expectancy by an average three years. Their findings, based on data from more than 4,16,000 people, are described today in the medical journal, The Lancet.

Chi Pang Wen at Taiwan’s National Health Research Institute and his colleagues found that such a low level of exercise six days a week reduced “all cause” mortality by 14 per cent, cancer mortality by 10 per cent and cardiovascular disease mortality by 20 per cent.

The researchers believe a public health recommendation for such a low volume of exercise may stir more people into becoming active and, thus, healthier. Individuals are more likely to do 15 minutes of daily exercise than 30 minutes of daily exercise, they said.

“This is the first observational study of this size to report important health benefits at such a low volume of leisure-time physical activity with this degree of precision,” Anil Nigam and Martin Juneau, two physicians in Montreal, Canada, who were not associated with the study wrote in an accompanying commentary in the journal. They said health professionals need to convince people to be at least “minimally active”.

But the impact of the new findings on Indians is still unclear. Many doctors believe that Indians need a special modified exercise plan to take into account their relatively high predisposition to cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

“Indians need more exercise,” said Anoop Misra, a diabetologist and chairperson of the National Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol Foundation. Misra and other specialists have developed a set of consensus guidelines for exercise for Indians, which recommend 60 minutes of physical activity for adults every day.

The consensus guidelines for Indians, which will be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Diabetes Technology and Therapeutics, recommend that the 60 minutes of exercise should include at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, 15 minutes of work-related activity and 15 minutes of muscle strengthening exercises.

However, doctors believe the findings from Taiwan might nevertheless prompt more inactive people to take up at least minimum levels of exercise — and lower the proportion of inactive people, the greater the public health benefits.