Men and women who move around throughout the day, even if they just stroll or clean the kitchen and do not formally exercise, are less likely to die prematurely than people who hardly ever leave their chairs, according to a new study of physical activity and mortality.
The study, the largest of its kind to date, finds that any activity, no matter how modest, can reduce mortality risks, with some of the greatest gains seen when people shift from being almost completely sedentary toward rising and ambling for even an extra hour each day.
By now, none of us should be surprised to hear that movement and exercise and movement are good for us. Many studies show links between activity and longevity, with more moving almost always tied to longer life spans.
A limitation of these past studies, however, is that in many of them, researchers asked people how active they had been in recent days or weeks, and most of us cannot accurately report how much time we spent sitting or completing gentle, everyday activities like cooking and cleaning.
Some of those past studies, however, did equip people with activity trackers to objectively monitor their days. But most of those have tended to be small or focused only on men, women or older adults, making their results difficult to interpret for the general population.
So for the new study, which was published in August in the British Medical Journal, an international consortium of researchers decided to find, combine and reanalyse as much data as possible from earlier studies that had provided volunteers with activity monitors.
To start, the researchers turned to online libraries containing studies about exercise and longevity during which volunteers wore accelerometers. Out of dozens of studies, eight passed the researchers’ strict criteria for methodology and reliability.
Those eight studies used slightly differing statistical methods and definitions of what constituted easy or moderate exercise and activities, though. So, the researchers contacted the authors of these studies and asked if they would reanalyse their original data, using standardized statistical methods and activity definitions.