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Ten minutes of walking per day may increase life by three years

People with multiple chronic conditions could increase their life expectancy by three years with as little as ten minutes of brisk walking a day. The research, funded by the University of Leicester and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care East Midlands (CLARHC EM), utilised the UK Biobank database of 502,611 participants in the largest ever study investigating the relationship between physical activity and life expectancy in those with multiple diseases.

The study focuses on patients with two or more conditions (such as asthma and cancer) and uses both self-reported levels of physical activity and objectively measured levels of physical activity via fitness trackers. This is the first study to examine the objective physical activity and longevity in those with multiple conditions.

The research group found that self-reported levels of physical activity were consistent with objective measures. In both measures they found that moderate exercise (or ten minutes of brisk walking a day) was associated with a three year increase in life expectancy, while 22 minutes of brisk walking could increase life expectancy by as much as five years. Reporting in terms of life expectancy allows for easy interpretation of results, as opposed to relative risks which may be harder to understand.

Yogini Chudasama, PhD student and lead author of the BioMed Central (BMC) Medicine article, said: “The message of this study is that high intensity exercise isn’t necessary to increase life expectancy. As little as ten minutes of exercise a day is highly beneficial for those with multiple long-term illnesses.”

Earlier this year, co-authors  Professor Thomas Yates and Dr Francesco Zaccardi used the UK Biobank database to find that people who walk faster are more likely to live longer, regardless of BMI or obesity status. This study further suggests that achievable changes to physical activity levels can produce dramatic benefits to life expectancy.

The most prevalent conditions captured by this study were high blood pressure, asthma, cancer, depression and diabetes. This study focused on people with more than one chronic condition, however it did not look at specific clusters of diseases commonly found together. This will be the focus of upcoming studies with aims to study the benefits of physical activity in specific patient populations to create more tailored treatment plans.

The study, “Physical activity, multimorbidity, and life expectancy: a UK Biobank longitudinal study” is funded by the University of Leicester College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology PhD studentship and the NIHR CLAHRC EM and supported by Leicester Clinical Trials Unit, and the NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).