It might not be easy to be active every day. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week and two days of muscle-strengthening workouts each week. And with today’s hectic lifestyles, it’s easy to forget to get in those 30 minutes of exercise per day. However, according to recent research, as little as 10 minutes of physical activity every day might have significant health benefits and even help you live longer.
The study’s goal, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, was to explore whether the physical activity may help people live longer in the United States. From 2003 to 2006, participants aged six and up were invited to wear an accelerometer (a device that monitors vibration and acceleration) for seven days as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Researchers then examined information from 4,850 people aged 40 to 85 who were followed up in 2015 to establish their self-reported health condition. The study also considered age, sex, body mass index (BMI), chronic diseases, smoking, and alcohol intake.
What did the research uncover?
The study projected that if American adults aged 40 to 85 raised their moderate-to-vigorous physical exercise intensity (MVPA) by a tiny amount—as little as 10 minutes per day—approximately 110,000 fatalities could be avoided each year. Increasing MVPA by 10, 20, or 30 minutes per day was related to a 6.9%, 13%, and 16.9% reduction in annual fatalities, respectively. Men, women, from all ethnic groups saw the same benefits. (It’s worth noting that this information was gathered before the COVID-19 epidemic, which skewed fatality rates.)
“This brand new study shows that even a little bit of activity every day can save over 100,000 lives a year and for 30 minutes a day over 270,000 US lives a year. That’s amazing,” says cardiologist David Sabgir, MD, founder of Walk With a Doc and ambassador for Fresh Avocados–Love One Today.
Seema Bonney, MD, a functional medicine specialist at the Anti-Aging and Longevity Center of Philadelphia, agrees, adding that setting a goal of only 10 minutes per day is a fantastic place to start, to increase to 20 or 30 minutes eventually.
“Even 10 minutes a day, even if you’re doing something else like watching TV or attending a meeting, 10 minutes a day has a significant effect on living longer,” she adds. “It’s amazing, and it’s a fantastic return on investment.”
Why does exercise become crucial with age?
It’s no secret that regular exercise is beneficial to your overall health. According to Danine Fruge, MD, ABFP, Medical Director of Pritikin Longevity Center, it can enhance everything from weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol to balance, energy, mood, and memory.
Sarcopenia, or age-related muscle loss, begins in your 30s, with an average loss of three to five percent of muscle mass every decade, according to Dr. Fruge. However, she says, frequent activity can help minimize muscle loss, guard against falls, and potentially extend longevity.
Dr. Vanita Rahman, MD, clinic director of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s Barnard Medical Center, adds that regular exercise can enhance cognition and potentially lessen the incidence of dementia. Dr. Bonney adds that exercise can also aid mental health by raising endorphins and reducing stress-induced cortisol levels.
Dr. Sabgir says, “Many health issues crop up in higher numbers as we age, like heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s. Having a tool as simple as walking for 10 minutes or more a day is a great weapon to help fight disease.” He recommends combining activity with a nutritious diet rich in fruits, vegetables, dietary fiber, and heart-healthy unsaturated fats for even more significant benefits.
How can I increase my activity during the day?
Of course, we all want to be our best every day, but Dr. Bonney is excited that this study discovered scientific proof that even a small amount of activity every day may have a significant impact.
“Even something as short as 10 minutes, which all of us have, can make a difference. A lot of patients will say they don’t have enough time, but 10 minutes is doable,” she asserts. According to experts, here are some ideas on how to spend your ten minutes today.
- Body-weight exercises: Dr. Fruge believes that no equipment is required to achieve a few minutes of exercise. Try sit-ups, squats, or push-ups—any vigorous activity involving your entire body counts.
- Finish your chores: According to Dr. Rahman, many everyday activities can help you meet your activity objectives. Vacuuming the house or walking the dog are simple methods to increase physical activity.
- Try the “temptation bundle”: Dr. Sabgir outlines the “temptation bundle,” which entails doing something you enjoy (such as listening to your favorite podcast) while exercising (like when you go for a walk).
- Stretch it out: According to Dr. Bonney, stretching for just 10 minutes may help muscles, bones, balance, and more.
- Sit up and down: Dr. Fruge recommends grabbing your chair and doing lightweight rows, standing up and sitting down 15 times, creating arm circles, or bicycling your lower legs in between meetings or during commercial breaks of your favorite program.
- Listen to music: Dr. Fruge recommends making a playlist of four favorite songs and dancing, marching in place, doing jumping jacks, and getting active for health advantages.
- Make minor adjustments: Dr. Rahman recommends using the stairs instead of the elevator, parking further away from your destination, and getting off the bus a stop early to gain a few more steps.
- Take a walk or jog on the treadmill: Dr. Bonney recommends taking this study to heart and striving for 10 minutes on whichever piece of equipment you prefer, even if you don’t have 30 minutes to walk on the treadmill or attend a class on your stationary cycle. Many health clubs offer 10-minute increments for free.
Regardless of your exercise level, always consult with your doctor before starting any new activity to ensure that it’s safe for you.