15-minute daily exercise is 'bare minimum for health'

jogger Moderate exercise does not have to be a long jog, it could be a brisk walk to work or taking the stairs

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Just 15 minutes of exercise a day can boost life expectancy by three years and cut death risk by 14%, research from Taiwan suggests.

Experts in The Lancet say this is the least amount of activity an adult can do to gain any health benefit.

This is about half the quantity currently recommended in the UK.

Meanwhile, work in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests a couch potato lifestyle with six hours of TV a day cuts lifespan by five years.

The UK government recently updated its exercise advice to have a more flexible approach, recommending adults get 150 minutes of activity a week.

This could be a couple of 10-minute bouts of activity every day or 30-minute exercise sessions, five times a week, for example.

Experts say this advice still stands, but that a minimum of 15 minutes a day is a good place to start for those who currently do little or no exercise.

Start Quote

You can get good gains with relatively small amounts of physical activity. More is always better, but less is a good place to start”

End Quote Prof Stuart Biddle, an expert in exercise psychology at Loughborough University

The Lancet study, based on a review of more than 400,000 people in Taiwan, showed 15 minutes per day or 90 minutes per week of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking, can add three years to your life.

And people who start to do more exercise tend to get a taste for it and up their daily quota, the researchers from the National Health Research Institutes, Taiwan, and China Medical University Hospital found.

More exercise led to further life gains. Every additional 15 minutes of daily exercise further reduced all-cause death rates by 4%.

And research from Australia on health risks linked to TV viewing suggest too much time sat in front of the box can shorten life expectancy, presumably because viewers who watch a lot of telly do little or no exercise.

England's Chief Medical Officer Sally Davies said: "Physical activity offers huge benefits and these studies back what we already know - that doing a little bit of physical activity each day brings health benefits and a sedentary lifestyle carries additional risks."

UK exercise recommendations

  • Under-fives (once walking independently): three hours every day
  • Five to 18-year-olds: at least an hour a day of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity, plus muscle strengthening activities three times a week
  • Adults (including over 65s): 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity, plus muscle strengthening activities twice a week

She added: "We hope these studies will help more people realise that there are many ways to get exercise, activities like walking at a good pace or digging the garden over can count too."

Prof Stuart Biddle, an expert in exercise psychology at Loughborough University, said a lot of people in the UK now fall into the category of inactive or sedentary.

He said that aiming for 30 minutes of exercise a day on pretty much every day of the week might seem too challenging for some, but starting low and building up could be achievable.

"You can get good gains with relatively small amounts of physical activity. More is always better, but less is a good place to start."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 243.

    Darren Reynolds

    Does sex count? It's a serious question.
    Yes, it does actually.

  • rate this

    Comment number 242.

    I do believe that exercise is good for you but I wonder how a research can come to the conclusion that 15 minutes (not 14, not 16 minutes) could increase 3 years in your life (not 4, not 2 years). I would love to know how they could reach such a gem of a conclusion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 241.

    Another point, it doesnt matter if someone is visually overweight as its also important that fat accumulation around essential organs such as the heart can seriously harm you ie doesnt matter if you are physically thin, EXERCISE regularly!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 240.

    This article and the one on the train fare hike should be published alongside each other. I have added cycling to part of my train journey and saved £5 per day. I don't think of it as exercise, just a means of getting to work. The exercise is an extra benefit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 239.

    Everyone has the time to do 15 minutes exercise each day, it's just a matter of getting yourself into the habit..... and out of the habit of coming in and switching on the TV or opening the biscuit tin!

  • rate this

    Comment number 238.

    Anything in moderation is a good thing, but over-exertion is a killer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 237.

    re227 total mass

    it would be hard work setting up all the mirrors to see what you are doing anyway

  • rate this

    Comment number 236.

    '...cut death risk by 14%...'

    I always thought our risk of death was 100%.

    The message from this research and the literature to which it contributes is clear and unambiguous: exercise regularly, eat well, don't smoke, drink in moderation and you stand a better chance of living longer. But it's still no guarantee and it can't protect you from accidental death...

  • rate this

    Comment number 235.

    In Eastern Asia,they lead a healthy lifestyle.They dont eat too much at one sitting and always go for a walk afterwards to burn off the excess fat.There are a lot of mountains in Asia so a past time is climbing. gr8 exercise.Heart disease are on the increase because of Western food and technology.Its all about making money including the medicine we buy.Dont ever think the gov is helping us.

  • rate this

    Comment number 234.

    You would be suprise what people connsider "regular exercise". I know lots of people who go to the gym regularly but they do nothing that inteligent people could call exercise. Basically they full themselves thinking that a few reps in a couple of machines and 30 minutes in the changing room is is a gym session and they would answer "yes, I am gym goer!" to these researchers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 233.

    don't think the starving need to exercise to lose weight and stay in shape and the impoverished can still excercise.if poor africans can play football in ghana with no footwear,pitch or even a proper ball then what excuses are you proposing we peddle out for the stupidity that is rampant in this country?

  • rate this

    Comment number 232.

    I have just been to a lovely 100th birthday celebration of a dear Buddhist monk who may now be in a wheelchair but his brain is a sharp as a pin. The Buddhists spend long periods in meditation and do prostrations full length at various intervals. They are veggies by choice - respect for all sentient beings - and they practise Tai Chi and deep breathing exercises. They have no fear of death at all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 231.

    Manchester Lizard (53) - the reason walking doesn't feel like exercise is because it isn't exercise...it's physical activity! Something which should be part of every human's lifestyle whether you own a dog or not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 230.

    I agree it's easy to fit in exercise. I bought an exercise bike and do 20 minute sessions most days at home. I've lost weight and feel good for it.

    It's quiet enough you could use it watching TV or listening to your iPod if so inclined.

    Though I bet it does us a lot of good to get outside too, at least one half hour walk a week is bound to improve state of mind.

  • rate this

    Comment number 229.

    This is not meant as a joke but I think the most exercise that the youths had this year was at the riots! UK has caught up to Amercia as the fattest country in the world. Fat, i meant fact !

  • rate this

    Comment number 228.

    Are these claims opinion or established facts beyond dispute, according to BBC guidelines on scientific reporting?

  • rate this

    Comment number 227.

    "nosotros somos el futuro
    I also read that it would take 12 hours of sex to lose a pound of fat!"

    And I imagine those most in need of losing that fat are least able to "perform" to the required standard or duration!

  • rate this

    Comment number 226.

    There's a lot of people on the defensive, I bet more than 14% of those people are also extremely fat. Botttm line is excercise prolongs life.
    We who excercise live longer paying taxes to subsidise poor decision making of fat people
    I hear terms like "fatphobe" thrown around by fat people, would they care to thank us non-fat people for living longer and subisdising their care in later life?

  • rate this

    Comment number 225.

    It's not snidey and you take it wrongly. Come on, tell us - how many? The fact is there are very few, aren't there?

    Try China and Japan for starters. The Asians move around each day, most are too poor to buy consoles or TV etc. A lot of the people in rural poor areas live a long age. Why? because most are not poisoned by junk food and modern technology like xbox


  • rate this

    Comment number 224.

    If people don't want to do go to gym then walk to work both ways and do not take the lifts but climb up the stairs. That will be a enough exercise itself to keep oneself fit.


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