The Power of Exercise

Vigorous exercise lowered death risk in adults

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Working up a sweat is a well-known way to lose weight and boost heart health. And those effects of exercise, among others, could help you live longer.

A recent study found that exercise, especially vigorous exercise, lowered the risk of death among middle-aged and older adults.

The authors of this study tracked adults’ exercise habits for several years. They compared the number of deaths among inactive adults to those of active adults.

People who exercised regularly had a lower risk of dying during the study period. Vigorous exercise in particular appeared to protect against early death.

“The results indicate that whether or not you are obese, and whether or not you have heart disease or diabetes, if you can manage some vigorous activity it could offer significant benefits for longevity,” said lead author Klaus Gebel, PhD, of James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, in a press statement.

However, Josephine Dlugopolski-Gach, MD, an internal medicine physician at Loyola University Health System and an assistant professor at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, said the current study wasn't high-quality.

"This is not the best study, large sample, small response, self reporting, no follow up, impossible to determine if the physical activity was the same throughout the study period or just a short representation of time," Dr. Dlugopolski-Gach told dailyRx News. "One person may consider an activity high intensity and another moderate. We know exercise provides benefit but I’m not sure this study convinces me on the exact amount of exercise one should do."

Dr. Dlugopolski-Gach offered some tips on staying healthy.

"I ask all of my [patients who are older than 80] who are physically doing well, 'What is your secret?' Most of them have been physically active their whole life," she said. "They do some type of moderate physical activity every day, cleaning their house, walking the dog, washing windows, gardening, biking etc. Most 'couch potatoes' do not live past 80. Patients who are motivated to do physical activity are usually also motivated to eat healthy and not smoke."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that adults get 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. This includes brisk walking. Alternatively, an adult can exercise vigorously, by jogging, for 75 minutes per week.

In this study, Dr. Gebel and team followed nearly 205,000 adults who were 45 years old or older for about 6.5 years. They kept track of their exercise habits, including how much time they spent doing vigorous activity.

Compared to people who got very little exercise, active people had a much lower risk of death.

People who exercised at least 150 minutes per week cut their risk of death in half — compared to people who were active less than 10 minutes per week.

Also, people who engaged in vigorous exercise lowered their risk of death even further.

Patients who worked up a sweat with more intense exercise were about 10 percent less likely to die — compared to people who did not report any vigorous exercise.

“Our research indicates that even small amounts of vigorous activity could help reduce your risk of early death,” Dr. Gebel said.

Dr. Gebel added, “For those with medical conditions, for older people in general, and for those who have never done any vigorous activity or exercise before, it's always important to talk to a doctor first."

This study was published April 6 in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The Heart Foundation of Australia funded this research. Dr. Gebel and team disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
April 3, 2015
Last Updated:
April 7, 2015