Health and Wellness

Exercise 2-4x more than the HHS recommends to achieve maximum benefit, says new study

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recommends that Americans complete a minimum of 2 hours and 30 minutes to 5 hours per week of moderate physical activity, 1 hour and 15 minutes to 2 hours and 30 minutes per week of vigorous physical activity or an equal combination of both, according to its 2018 physical activity guidelines.

Over the course of seven days, that translates to roughly 21 to 42 minutes of daily moderate exercise and a little over 10 to 21 minutes of daily vigorous exercise.

However, a new study by researchers at Harvard and several international universities found that exercising for a longer time each week provided more health benefits — particularly "the maximum benefit of mortality reduction."

Study shows this is the optimal length of exercise

The experts who conducted the study, published in the American Heart Association's journal, Circulation, determined that lower mortality was associated with two to four times as much exercise as what is recommended by HHS.

According to their research, funded by the National Institutes of Health, the optimal length of exercise per week is:

  • minimum of 5 to 10 hours of moderate physical activity (42 minutes to an hour and 25 minutes daily)
  • minimum 2 hours and 30 minutes to 5 hours of vigorous physical activity (21-42 minutes daily)
  • an equivalent combination of the two

The study followed over 100,000 U.S. adults from 1988 to 2018 using questionnaires. Participants were asked about age, race, weight, height, family medical history, personal medical history, sleep duration, smoking history and more.

Results showed that people who completed 300 to 600 minutes, which is 5 to 10 hours, of moderate physical activity per week had 26% to 31% lower all-cause mortality. 

Specifically, those individuals had 28% to 38% lower cardiovascular mortality and 25% to 27% lower non-cardiovascular mortality compared to people who reported no, or almost zero, physical activity per week.

Individuals who completed 150 to 300 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week saw similar benefits: 21% to 23% lower all-cause mortality, 27% to 33% lower cardiovascular mortality and 19% lower non-cardiovascular mortality.

Recommended exercises from the HHS:

Per HHS guidelines, here are some simple ways to incorporate the physical activity you need into your lifestyle.

Moderate Physical Activities

  • Walking briskly
  • Playing doubles tennis
  • Raking the yard

Vigorous Physical Activities

  • Jogging
  • Running
  • Shoveling snow
  • Carrying heavy groceries
  • Attending a strenuous fitness class

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