News & Insights 9 March 2020

Physical Activity doesn’t need to be strenuous to be effective

There is a persistent myth that physical activity has to be strenuous to benefit our health. But this is simply not true, as the results of preliminary research presented last week at the American Heart Association’s Epidemiology and Prevention, Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health Scientific Sessions 2020 have shown.

“Finding a way to physically move more in an activity that suits your capabilities and is pleasurable is extremely important for all people, and especially for older people who may have risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. Physical activities such as brisk walking can help manage high blood pressure and high cholesterol, improve glucose control among many benefits,” said Barry A. Franklin, Ph.D., past chair of both the American Heart Association’s Council on Physical Activity and Metabolism and the National Advocacy Committee, Director Of Preventive Cardiology And Cardiac Rehabilitation at Beaumont Health in Royal Oak, Michigan and Professor of Internal Medicine at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in Rochester, Michigan.

The researchers used wearable activity monitors to measure the physical activity levels of 1262 participants who had an average age of 69-years (54% female). They found that those who spent at least 150 minutes a week in moderate to vigorous physical activity were 67% less likely to die of any cause than those who did less than 150 minutes of the same type of activity.

Importantly, the researchers showed that physical activity doesn’t need to be strenuous to be effective. Among the participants every 30-minute interval of light-intensity activity – such as housework or casual walking – was associated with a 20% lower risk of dying from any cause. And, conversely, every additional 30-minutes spent sedentary was related to a 32% higher risk of dying from any cause.

“Promoting light-intensity physical activity and reducing sedentary time may be a more practical alternative among older adults,” said Joowon Lee, Ph.D., a researcher at Boston University.

The results of a second preliminary study that was presented at the Scientific Sessions have also got some media attention. In this study of over 6000 women with an average age of 79.2-years, those who walked between 2100 and 4500 steps a day reduced their risk of dying from heart attacks, heart failure, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases by up to 38%, compared with women who walked less than 2100 steps a day.

However, there are major problems with using steps as a measure of physical activity. Not only do they fail to account for movement that is not manifested in steps, they ignore intensity and, when it comes to physical activity for health, wellbeing and fitness, intensity matters.

Taken together, these studies show that any type of movement has the potential to benefit your health and longevity. There are multiple dimensions that we can take advantage of to gain the innumerable benefits of physical activity. The personalised multidimensional physical activity profiles visualised in KiActiv®, created by our partners at the University of Bath, give you unique insight into your body and your lifestyle. They enhance understanding and inspire confidence to change and optimise your individual physical activity, so you can choose what types of physical activity you want to do to improve your health and longevity.

The KiActiv® Team