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Medicine Idle Science

The Least Amount of Exercise Needed To Extend Life 249

Toe, The writes "Of particular concern to couch potatoes, gamers, and anyone who spends an inordinate amount of time sitting and staring at a screen is how little exercise can I do and still receive a benefit. A new study entitled 'Minimum amount of physical activity for reduced mortality and extended life expectancy: a prospective cohort study' answers this important question. The conclusion: 92 minutes of moderate activity a week can extend your life by three years."
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The Least Amount of Exercise Needed To Extend Life

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  • 92? (Score:2, Funny)

    by _0xd0ad ( 1974778 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @03:57PM (#37196506) Journal

    Obviously they meant 42.

  • by ifiwereasculptor ( 1870574 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @03:58PM (#37196526)

    ...in which I'll have to exercise? Oh, let my sweet death come.

  • Love excercise (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sakdoctor ( 1087155 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @04:02PM (#37196574) Homepage

    Good job I love exercise, so I don't have to go around calculating the bare minimum.

  • by prefec2 ( 875483 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @04:03PM (#37196596)

    When you do nothing, really nothing you die three years earlier than the couch potato next to you who exercises 92 minutes a week. This can easily be achieved by walking fast to the pizza place 10 minutes away instead of calling for delivery. ;-)

  • by TheEmpyrean ( 788742 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @04:05PM (#37196626)

    ... does masturbation count? Because I'm going to live forever at this point.

  • by Anon-Admin ( 443764 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @04:06PM (#37196630) Homepage Journal

    If I exercise for 92 min a week for the next 38 years I get to live an extra 3 years.

    So if I total it up, I am doing 3.32 days of exercise a year to gain 25 days of life expectancy. Ok, so it seems like a deal.

    Though I could just spend those 3.3 days playing the latest game, much more enjoyable and loosing 3 years is not that big of a deal.

    • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @04:28PM (#37196906)
      It makes me feel good doing it. It makes me look better. It reduces colds and headaches. And its fun at times. Increased longevity is a bonus, but not a deal-maker.
      • by Pharmboy ( 216950 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @04:57PM (#37197398) Journal

        You young whippersnappers will soon learn that one reason so many of us older folks get exercise is that it reduces the amount of pain in old bones. I won't go to the gym to save my life, but I will work in the yard, garden some, mow the law, haul water in a 5 gallon bucket, wheel barrel stuff off, etc. Nothing too dramatic, but enough that it reduces the pain and inflammation in the joints and you really do feel better. The least amount is around 30 minutes a day of just moving around doing light work to get the benefits, preferably in the A.M. Ask anyone with arthritis, you will get the same answer.

    • by geekmux ( 1040042 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @04:30PM (#37196936)

      ...Though I could just spend those 3.3 days playing the latest game, much more enjoyable and loosing 3 years is not that big of a deal.

      Ahhh, spoken like [insert anyone under the age of 35 here].

      Sorry, I don't mean to pick on you, but your opinion about how valuable time is will likely change drastically from the oh-so-popular "meh, fuck it, I won't even make it past 30" attitude that many younger people have.

      Time. It's the one thing that no matter how rich you are, you can never buy more of, and once it's lost, it's gone forever.

    • by TheCarp ( 96830 ) <sjc@@@carpanet...net> on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @04:37PM (#37197052) Homepage

      Though... there are other factors. What if that only averages 6 more months of good health? 3 extra years worth it, if you spend 2.5 of it in pain or in a hospital bed?

      Not saying I expect to find that, but depending on your choice of exercice and other factors...who knows. What about increased risk of injury? Your chooice of exercise may increase the odds of getting an injury that may have other complications.

      encouraging but...yes we do need more than just "you get to be even older"

    • by metlin ( 258108 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @04:39PM (#37197090) Journal

      As someone who works out on a regular basis (an hour or two on most days), I will let you in on a little secret: working out is fun.

      Sure, when you first get started, it feels tedious. Pointless, even. But once you start seeing the changes in your body, it becomes addictive.

      For instance, most days, I can't wait to get done with work and hit the gym. Ever heard of the runner's high? Working out makes you feel great when you're done with it -- you feel euphoria when you're working out, and a feeling of accomplishment when you're done with it. But the trick is to keep at it.

      In the short term, you'll feel more awake, sleep better (deeper REM sleep), and eat better (seriously, once I started working out regularly, I just started craving a wider variety of food than I'd usually eat -- more vegetables and protein, less carbs).

      After a few months, you will see serious physical changes in your body that, if not anything else, helps with your vanity. :-) Plus, there's nothing quite like having a girl check you out -- it's a great feeling. As my wife is wont to say, there's nothing that women like more than a buff geek. Beauty and the brains -- can't beat that.

      You can do it for any number of reasons, but you will eventually get to a point when you'll be doing it because it is fun. Once you get there, you'll look back and wonder why you didn't do it all these years. Trust me, it's worth it.

      • by baka_toroi ( 1194359 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @04:46PM (#37197238) Journal
        You know, I went to the gym for like a year and it was great, I felt better than I do know. The catch is that I used to go with a friend. At this point in my life I don't really have a friend that could adapt to my schedule and I tried working out on my own: it was awfully boring, incredibly boring.

        So now I'm not excercising at all because I *know* it will be boring. Any piece of advice to share?
        • by metlin ( 258108 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @05:05PM (#37197518) Journal

          Can you find an activity or a sport you could participate in? A softball league or an ultimate frisbee league? Or a pick up game of soccer? Otherwise, there's always Craigslist! :-)

          As someone who is always on the road, I often have this problem, but it's usually easier to find people to do activities with when you're playing a sport (no matter how bad you are at it).

          The other thing is to take up an interesting and new hobby (e.g. I've been thinking of doing boxing for fun, just every Saturday for an hour). Even if it's one day a week, I know there will be someone at the ring, and it helps you get into a groove. As you start doing better, you will start participating in activities to support your performance in the sport (e.g. when I used to play soccer or tennis, I would run regularly; with boxing, I'm hoping to start lifting more).

          Also, I'm not sure how feasible this is, but we've a dog -- my wife enjoys running with the dog because it's good company, and it's a lot of fun.

        • by reason ( 39714 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @09:08PM (#37200528)

          Listen to audiobooks or podcasts while you work out. Suddenly, it's not nearly so dull.

          • by metlin ( 258108 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @09:34PM (#37200708) Journal

            Actually, I'd recommend good workout music. While it's a question of personal preference, I've found certain genres of music to be more uplifting for working out than others (e.g. hip hop with good rhythm and beats is great).

            It would also depend on what you're doing. A significant part of working your muscle groups involves concentrating more on using certain muscles over others. For example, when doing your lower back, it is easy to lose concentration and work your core or your legs, but it takes focus to ensure that the right muscle group gets the workout. I'm not sure I could listen to a book or a podcast when I'm doing anything other than cardio, but YMMV.

      • by MorePower ( 581188 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @06:05PM (#37198408)
        I've never felt good when exercising. I do it, and do it regularly, solely because I like to be sexually desirable. But there is no way it can be called fun. It's something you grit your teeth a force yourself through because it feels better later, when you're not exercising, and some girl is actually checking you out.

        On Saturday (my big workout day) I often stay I bed long after I've already woken up, long after I've gotten bored out of my mind just laying there, because I'm filled with dread at the fact that once I get up, I'm going to have to force myself to workout. And runner's high? I've heard of it, but the only thing I've ever felt is just sort of a dizzy, head in clouds, "out of it" sort of feeling, like being drugged up by a doctor. Granted you don't feel the pain anymore, but the experience is anything but pleasant.

        Exercise sucks, it may be worth it later, but I hate when people like you say it's "fun".
    • by somersault ( 912633 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @05:53PM (#37198160) Homepage Journal

      What the hell people. "Exercise" can be just as fun as computer games. You just need to find an activity that you enjoy.

      I love playing the Assassin's Creed games, but doing Parkour for real is more fun, not to mention free, with a much larger potential play area. As a side bonus, you get very functionally fit (and much more confident in your body's capabilities), unlike those guys pumping weights just for the aesthetic results.

      Besides, I don't want to be one of those old people that can barely walk because they have no muscle - and being fit makes life much more enjoyable than when I was carrying 20lbs of dead weight.

    • by LtGordon ( 1421725 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @07:57PM (#37199922)

      Though I could just spend those 3.3 days playing the latest game, much more enjoyable and loosing 3 years is not that big of a deal.

      You assume that physical activity is necessarily unenjoyable. Find and take up something you enjoy, whether it be racquetball, basketball, biking, bowling, skating, golf, etc, and it will never feel like work.

  • by mapkinase ( 958129 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @04:09PM (#37196668) Homepage Journal

    How can one call himself a scientist and make statements like this?

    "The conclusion: 92 minutes of moderate activity a week can extend your life by three years.""

    It's obvious that it could only be result of very indirect studies.

    • by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @04:22PM (#37196832) Homepage

      Right. If I read the abstract correctly, the data is from peoples' self reporting of how much they exercise

      So, the data doesn't show whether exercising makes you live longer, or whether people who are healthier also are more likely to exercise.

      • by dr2chase ( 653338 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @08:09PM (#37200064) Homepage

        I would think that (a) people overestimate how much they exercise and (b) exercise is still good for you. There was a Danish study of mortality rates and physical activity, and various forms of (self-reported) exercise looked good, but riding a bicycle to work looked really good. I don't think that biking is any better than any other form of aerobic exercise, but if you bike to work, you do it, or you don't. And you don't quit halfway to work. Which is to say, that the self-reporting of biking to work, was probably more accurate than the self-reporting of "oh I get lots of exercise".

  • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @04:14PM (#37196720) Homepage
    One obvious question to ask for this sort of thing is if it is worth it. If the time increase to lifespan was less than the time necessary to spend exercising then this would be worth it. Assume a normal life span of 80 years. And assume that the exercise takes 120 minutes (showering off, changing clothes etc. pushes one above 92 minutes. I'm assuming 120 here because that makes it exactly two hours which makes the arithmetic easier). Then with 52 weeks a year, one gets that this takes up a total of 80*52*2/24, which is slightly under a year. So even if you are completely neutral to exercise and can't get any nice thinking done during it, the total delta is 2 years. So this does look like it makes sense. There's a slight argument that using time up when one is younger isn't good if the later years aren't as high quality. I'm not sure how much validity that argument has but there's some evidence that exercising keeps one healthier for the last few decades of life, so this probably increases the quality. Overall verdict: Exercising seems to make sense.
  • by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @04:16PM (#37196740) Journal

    ...That's 3 more years in which you can defend your high score.

  • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @04:18PM (#37196774) Homepage

    ...you could ignore the whole issue and gamble that a pill that has the same effect will be invented soon.

  • by itchythebear ( 2198688 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @04:18PM (#37196776)

    Depends on what kind of animal is chasing you...

  • by quarterbuck ( 1268694 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @04:19PM (#37196796)
    The full pdf paper is slightly more informative. While the summary would seem to indicate that chances of mortality decreases linearly with increasing exercise, from Figure 2 of the chart it seems like after 100 minutes a day the benefits taper off. So it seems like 15 minutes a day is good,150 is overdoing it. http://www.natap.org/2011/HIV/PIIS0140673611607496.pdf [natap.org]
    They also note that ex-smokers exercised more than the norm, so that might be contributing to the decrease in cancer rates (correlation, not causation). Probably very imp. considering the study was done in Taiwan.
  • by ohnocitizen ( 1951674 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @04:20PM (#37196800)

    I know we are geeks here and "supposed" to hate exercise, but exercise is great. It helps cognitive health(http://www.fi.edu/learn/brain/exercise.html, http://news.illinois.edu/news/04/0216exercise.html [illinois.edu]) and emotional health (http://news.illinois.edu/news/04/0216exercise.html). Increasing your agility and endurance can save your life in a dangerous situation.

    It doesn't have to be boring either. You can practice martial arts or swordsmanship (and what helps you get into a Song of Fire and Ice better than being able to cook some of the dishes and work on swordplay in between books?). Sex counts too (http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/health/sex/better-sex-guide/sex-positions-that-double-as-exercise/), you can get pretty creative in the bedroom. You can grab a bunch of like minded friends, and invent games yourself.

  • by peter303 ( 12292 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @04:25PM (#37196866)
    I've heard this expressed in terms of weekly calories expended in heart-raising exercise, i.e 2000. Walking, running, biking (3x miles), etc. doesnt matter so much as long that many calories are burned. Neither whether its compressed into a couple of long sessions or divided into many ten-minute mini-sessions. In fact it recommended to choose the most pleasant form of cardio to you so can you can continue to do to for 50 or 70 more years.

    This data comes from the "grandfather" of the exercise boom Dr. Kenneth Cooper. He wrote a book called Aerobics in 1968 promoting endurance exercise over the then-popular calesthetics. He ignited the running boom by putting the on top of his 60-point-week exercise classification system. Running gets you there in the shortest time.

    Above 2000 exercise calories a week the situation gets murkier. You get additional, but diminishing longevity results up to about 5000 calories (50 miles walking/running). After that the main effect is improve sports performance, not longevity. Dr. Ken even claims that too much exercise may create more oxidative waste than the body can eliminate and then decrease longevity. But this is a minority opinion and irritates the ultra people.
  • by gstrickler ( 920733 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @04:28PM (#37196902)

    ... unless you're enjoying the exercise, or are rich enough to retire. Here's why: Assume you spend 8+ hours per day sleeping, eating, and bathing, and work 40 hours a week (plus travel to/from work). There are 8760 hours per year, of that at least 2,920 hours are sleeping, eating & bathing. Working 40hr/s & 50 weeks (2 weeks vacation) = 2,000 hours. So, at best, you net 3,840 hours/yr, and realistically, closer to 2,500-3,000. Then you spend time shopping, doing housework, being sick, etc.

    • 92 minutes per week gives you an average of an extra 3 years of life. That's ~80 hrs per year for ~75 years = ~ 6,000 hours exercising. In return, you get 3 years extra life. So, 3 yrs will give you 7500 - 11,500 hours of additional free time. That gains you something, but it's not huge.
    • Spending an extra hour a week exercising to get to 150min/week, means spending an extra 52 hrs/yr * 79yrs (75 + 4 extra) means you'll spend 4,180 extra hours exercising to gain just one additional year, which I've already established nets you at most 3,840 hrs (less in reality), which is a net loss of free time.

    So, if you're enjoying the extra exercise, or you can afford to retire, then that extra hour per week might be worth it, but if not, put in your 92 minutes and call it good. Remember, you read it hear first.

  • by Absolut187 ( 816431 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @04:32PM (#37196974) Homepage

    Standing desk.

  • by MetalliQaZ ( 539913 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @04:58PM (#37197402)

    ...you get old when you become less active.

    Statements like that quoted in the summary are pure silliness. On average, exercise will tend to extend life expectancy, but that is certainly not the whole story. Plenty of exercise, proper nutrition, and stimulating thought will improve quality of life for many years leading up to death. Those years are the time to enjoy the life you have.

  • by jdavidb ( 449077 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @05:05PM (#37197520) Homepage Journal
    What if I only want to extend my life by 2 years? Why is 3 years the quantum, here?
  • by tool462 ( 677306 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @05:09PM (#37197572)

    Did they factor in how much of that extra 3 years is due to the time dilation of moving closer to the speed of light than a sedentary person?

    I just can't take this study seriously if they're going to gloss over obvious issues like this one.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @05:33PM (#37197906) Homepage

    The *only* benefit I have gained by moving where I have has been that I can now bicycle to and from work. While I have considered that it may somehow extend my life in some way, I am often more concerned about how it might shorten it. ;)

    Seriously, people. I have ridden a roller-coaster of experiments on myself mixing diet and exercise and there is little to be gained through exercise. Sure, you need to keep your heart healthy and your circulatory system working well, but as far as I am concerned, that is the only real benefit of regular exercise. If you want to get or keep the weight down, nothing influences that more than diet.

    Last year, I went on low-carb and heavy cycling. Once I reached my target weight and size, I went back to normal eating (which in all honesty isn't "good" eating) and I maintained my cycling. Before long, I was gaining weight and my pants were feeling tighter.... and I NEVER stopped cycling. (I do about 10 miles a day minimum... somewhere between 40 and 70 minutes each day depending on traffic and weather)

    So every time I hear something about exercise without mention of diet, I have to shake my head. And you don't have to go low-carb to diet either... you can drop meat and greasy foods and push vegetables. (Just don't mix fats with carbs... one or the other, but not both) But since this study was done in Taiwan, I doubt they have a horrible obesity rate there and that they eat better than we do in the US, so it's probably a non-issue in this case.

    • by MarkvW ( 1037596 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @06:23PM (#37198744)

      I ride almost every day to work. It is far more pleasant than driving.

      The key to exercise is finding something that you enjoy.

    • by QRDeNameland ( 873957 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @07:01PM (#37199248)

      This is totally in line with my experience as well. However, as a recently diagnosed Type2 diabetic frequently monitoring my blood sugar, I can also attest to another clear benefit of moderate exercise: it keeps your blood sugar in much better control than if you stay sedentary. And at least for me, the blood sugar benefit seems to appear with as little as 20-30 minutes of walking, and doesn't seem to help much more with longer or more vigorous exercise.

      But as much as I've ever tried, and I've tried pretty damn hard, losing weight by exercise alone never worked for me. And after reading both of Gary Taubes' books, there seems to be good reason for that...it is very difficult to engage in extended vigorous exercise without "working up an appetite", which tends to defeat any caloric deficit from the activity.

      • by John Hasler ( 414242 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @09:24PM (#37200642) Homepage

        And after reading both of Gary Taubes' books, there seems to be good reason for that...it is very difficult to engage in extended vigorous exercise without "working up an appetite", which tends to defeat any caloric deficit from the activity.

        Your exercise was not vigorous enough. Really intense exercise reduces appetite. Try, for example, an interval training regime consisting of eight one-minute sprints seperated by one minute of brisk (100 steps/min) walking. The sprints should be run all-out, so that your heart rate reaches at least 80% of your maximum and you are left breathing as hard as you can. If you are young replace the walking with jogging.

        You're right that exercise alone is not enough, though. Try the SMNS diet. It works.

        BTW I know someone who completely cured his type 2 diabetes with diet and intense exercise.

    • by dr2chase ( 653338 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @08:27PM (#37200196) Homepage

      There's a LOT to be gained from exercise, as long as you aren't expecting miraculous reduction in weight. About 5 years ago I ramped up to 50 miles/week on my bike. I rapidly lost 20 pounds -- but not a pound since then. However, I have not gained any weight, either.

      On the plus side, my achy joints (knees, back) don't ache so much, and in the winter I can shovel snow till my arms are noodles and my hands feel like a ran a truck over them. And all my blood numbers moved to the good side.

  • by SEWilco ( 27983 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @05:37PM (#37197946) Journal
    Tonight, I'm going to exercise for 92 minutes. In 2.9 years, I'll again exercise for 92 minutes. Just do it.
  • I have come to the conclusion that by large and far the average person's goal in life is to spend ZERO minutes per week doing anything even remotely resembling work they don't have to do, and by "don't have to do" I mean "that they're not getting paid cash money to do". There is absolutely nothing you can do to externally motivate people to exercise. Even pointing a gun at them and making it clear you'll use it on them is only temporary, and even then I'm sure some people would rather take the bullet. Motivation to exercise must come from within, and reasoning like "you'll live longer", "you'll look better", "you'll feel better in the long run", "you'll be healthier in the long run", and "you'll be considered more attractive by the opposite sex" are never enough and can even be counterproductive in the long run ("attracting a mate" is eventually self-defeating, once you get what you want, so much for your motivation!).

    I'm already aware of how much heat I'm going to get for calling out the majority of the people in the world like this, and I don't really care, I'm just calling it like I see it. Go right ahead and moderate me down to "-1, Troll" all you like; it won't change my opinion or invalidate anything I just said.
  • by sgt scrub ( 869860 ) <saintium@yahoo. c o m> on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @06:56PM (#37199198)

    Do 16oz curls and monkey wrestling count?

  • Quality of life is more important to me. I don't exercise for the extra three years, that's just a bonus.

  • by Crypto Gnome ( 651401 ) on Wednesday August 24, 2011 @10:28PM (#37201100) Homepage Journal
    After approximately 19.2 yrs of 15-mins-a-day (everyday) you will have successfully *spent* those "extra three years" doing exercise.

    The real questions needing to be answered are
    • after 15 mins a day does your quality of life improve or are you just likely to live slightly longer
    • 15-mins-a-day for a couple of months, or for the rest of my life
    • and if I live more than 20 yrs, do I get more than just three years (because it rapidly becomes a loss not a gain)

"I've got some amyls. We could either party later or, like, start his heart." -- "Cheech and Chong's Next Movie"