Doing This for 20 Minutes a Day Adds Years to Your Life, New Study Says
Research shows that keeping up with this habit could extend your lifespan.
Across cultures and throughout human history, there has always been a search for a shortcut to a longer life. Modern science has taught us that certain healthy habits can go a long way in promoting longevity, despite how difficult it can be for some to adopt the lifestyle changes needed to benefit from them. But now, a new study has found that doing one thing for only about 20 minutes each day could easily add years to your life. Read on to see what you might want to start working into your daily to-do list.
About 20 minutes of vigorous exercise each day can help you live longer.
In a study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine in Nov. 2020, researchers set out to see what kind of effects moderate to vigorous exercise could have on preventing death from cancer, heart disease, or any other cause. The team used data collected from 403,681 adults who had taken part in the National Health Interview Survey from 1997 to 2003, which gathered self-reported information on physical activity levels and exercise habits. The team analyzed the data and compared them alongside death records through the end of 2015.
Results found that those who regularly partook in vigorous physical activity that elevated the heart rate, such as running or cardio exercise, had a lower risk of death from cancer or heart disease. But compared to time spent working out overall at a moderate intensity, those who committed to 150 minutes per week—or just over 20 minutes per day—of moderate to vigorous exercise saw an increase in life span with a lower early death rate from all causes.
Being sure to get in more vigorous exercise can be more beneficial than longer moderate workouts.
The researchers ultimately conclude that "this study suggests that a higher proportion of [vigorous physical activity] VPA to total physical activity was associated with lower all-cause mortality." According to the American Heart Association (AHA), this includes hiking uphill, running, swimming laps, aerobic dancing, hard yard work such as digging, singles tennis, cycling 10 miles per hour or faster, and jumping rope.
Health officials recommend getting in at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise.
However, you may want to think twice before you altogether ditch your weekly walk in favor of a HIIT class. The study's authors argue that while there may be an added efficiency to including more intense workouts, the findings make it clear that even moderate physical activity has significant health benefits.
The results also happen fall in line with recommendations found in the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HSS). It advises that adults should be getting in "at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week." On top of this, the agency also recommends adding moderate-to-high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity such as resistance or weights at least two days per week.
Of course, this doesn't all need to be adopted overnight. The guidelines suggest beginning with what feels comfortable and adding intensity and amount over time. At the very least, it's recommended to spend less time sitting and more time up and moving.
Other studies have found that getting in enough moderate exercise can also extend your life.
While moderate and vigorous exercise may bring plenty of benefits, other recent research has shown that even low-intensity workouts can be life-lengthening in their own way. For example, one new 2022 study published in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine, which set out to examine the benefits of moderate increases in exercise levels, found that adding as little as 10 minutes of walking to your regular routine may translate into a lower risk of premature death.
In fact, spread across the U.S. population, the researchers estimate that if every person that was physically able tacked on an extra 10 minutes of walking per day, we could collectively prevent more than 111,000 early deaths each year. This accounts for roughly seven percent of all American deaths in a year, notes The New York Times.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are several reasons that walking is good for you. The health authority explains that the activity can improve cardiovascular fitness, strengthen your bones and muscles, improve endurance, increase energy levels, improve balance and coordination, strengthen the immune system, and reduce stress and tension. Many individuals also use walking as a means to maintain a healthy weight or lose body fat, which can in turn lower one's risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. "Remember it's OK to start slowly—especially if you haven't been exercising regularly," the Mayo Clinic advises. "You might start with five minutes a day the first week, and then increase your time by five minutes each week until you reach at least 30 minutes," the organization's experts recommend.