If you want to protect yourself from chronic diseases, you need to exercise more. The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a new set of recommendations for the minimum amount of physical activity people need to clock in each week — at least 600 minutes. The new higher levels of exercise may seem intimidating at first, but if you hit the exercise goals, it could drastically lower your risk of developing five chronic diseases, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and breast and bowel cancer.

Researchers from the United States collaborated with a team from Australia to comb through the results of 174 studies published between 1980 and 2016. Each study measured the link between levels of physical activity and at least one of the five diseases. The more frequently a person was physically active each week, the lower their risk of developing all five of the conditions. Those who clocked in 3,000 to 4,000 minutes of exercise demonstrated the greatest health benefits.

Physical activity doesn’t have to mean running for hours on end or locking yourself to an elliptical each morning. A person can achieve 3,000 minutes a week by mixing in different types of activity into their everyday life, which includes house work or even just walking up the stairs. Researchers provided an example of a day's worth of physical activity that can help you achieve your weekly quota: walking or cycling for 25 minutes, running for 20, gardening for 20, vacuuming for 15, and climbing the stairs for 10.

Physical Activity Increasing the amount of physical activity each week can lower the risk of chronic disease around the world. Photo courtesy of Pixabay, public domain

"With population aging, and an increasing number of cardiovascular and diabetes deaths since 1990, greater attention and investments in interventions to promote physical activity is required," the study’s authors wrote. "More studies using the detailed quantification of total physical activity will help to find a more precise estimate for different levels of physical activity.”

By demanding higher levels of physical activity, researchers believe the world will lower their total risk of chronic diseases.  According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, if you are not physically active at all and want to improve your chances at a longer, healthier life, it’s important to ease into vigorous-intense aerobic activity. Heart attacks are a rare occurrence during physical activity, however the risk does increase when you suddenly put your body under higher levels of strain than you’re used to.  

Regular physical activity benefits go beyond reducing chronic diseases. Doing aerobic muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening physical activities for at least 120 to 300 minutes a week can help reduce the risk of hip fracture, especially among the elderly at-risk population. Clocking in 130 to 150 minutes of low-impact aerobic activity a week, like swimming, has shown to help with arthritis and pain management. Bonus: a regular mix of cardio and strength training three to five days a week can help improve mood, thinking, learning, and judgment skills.

Regular exercise can boost brain function, reduce stress, and even improve memory. Read here.

Source: Kyu H, Forouzanfar MH, Bachman VF, et al. Physical activity and risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes, ischemic heart disease, and ischemic stroke events: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2013. BMJ. 2016.