A new study published in the BMJ suggests that there’s a strong association between physical activity and lowering the risk of five common chronic diseases. These chronic diseases include diabetes, heart disease and stroke, breast and bowel cancer.
There are numerous studies that have proved the many benefits of physical activity. Such researches led to a minimum total physical activity level of 600 metabolic equivalent (MET) minutes per week across various ‘domains’ of daily life being recommended by WHO (World Health Organization).
The recommended MET can include being physically active during work or while doing other domestic activities. These activities can include gardening, housework, and even cycling and walking instead of taking some other means of transport.
While a lot of studies about the benefits of physical activity have been conducted over the decades they didn’t convey a definitive explanation about how much the quantity and type of physical activity helps to reduce the risk of diseases. That’s what the researchers behind the current study wanted to find out.
US and Australian based researchers analyzed results of 174 studies. These studies were published between the years 1980 to 2016. The association between total physical activity and at least one of the five diseases (breast cancer, diabetes, colon cancer, ischemic stroke, and ischemic heart disease) was examined. The analysis brought forward the results that a lower risk of all five chronic diseases was linked to higher level of total physical activity per week. A total activity level of 3000-4000 MET minutes a week was associated with the occurrence of health gains for an individual.
A 3000 MET minutes a week can be achieved by human beings through different types of physical activities they can easily perform in their daily routine. Activities such as vacuuming for 15 minutes, running for 20 minutes, climbing the stairs for 10 minutes, walking or cycling for 25 minutes, and gardening for 20 minutes can help a person achieve a 3000 MET minutes a week activity level.
According to the authors of the study a cause and effect can’t be told yet. However, their meta-analysis does help in linking evidence together to provide a better picture regarding the benefits of physical activity. “With population ageing, and an increasing number of cardiovascular and diabetes deaths since 1990, greater attention and investments in interventions to promote physical activity in the general public is required.” They further added that, “More studies using the detailed quantification of total physical activity will help to find a more precise estimate for different levels of physical activity.”
Researchers at the University of Strathclyde and International Prevention Research Institute in Lyon, Fance said in a linked editorial that the current study “represents an advance in the handling of disparate data on a lifestyle factor that has considerable importance for the prevention of chronic diseases.” However, they did raise a point and said that the study “cannot tell us whether risk reductions would be different with short duration intense physical activity or longer duration light physical activity.” They went on to conclude that “Future studies must streamline their measurement and reporting for real gains in knowledge.”
Whether future studies do end up revealing a cause and effect with regards to physical activity and reduction in disease risk, it is safe to say that there is an association present between the two. The current study should motivate individuals to follow a healthy lifestyle in order to live life to its fullest.