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Even a little exercise could improve health
August 16th, 2011
11:44 AM ET

Even a little exercise could improve health

Even a little exercise – about 15 minutes a day - can translate to health benefits, according to an observational study from Taiwan.

Researchers from Taiwan’s National Health Research Institutes found that individuals who exercised an average of 92 minutes a week had 14 percent reduced mortality compared with inactive people.  This extended to three more years of life expectancy, according to the study published in the Lancet.

The authors surveyed 416,175 people who self-assessed how much they exercised.   Participants were asked to recall the examples of exercises they did the previous month such as walking, brisk walking, jogging or running, which were categorized into inactive, low, medium, high or very high activity.

Most of the participants, 54% were inactive.  In the findings, 22% identified as low, 14% as medium, and 5% each for high and very high activity levels.

They followed up with participants after an average of eight years to calculate mortality risk and life expectancy for each category. Researchers found that even 15 minutes of moderate intensity exercise “had significant health benefits when compared with individuals who were inactive,” according to the study.

People who exercised had less deaths and less cancer-related deaths than inactive individuals.  “In Taiwan, if inactive individuals engage in low-volume daily exercise, one in six all-cause deaths could be postponed,” wrote lead author, Dr. Chi Pang Wen.

The World Health Organization's exercise guidelines recommend exercising at least 30 minutes, five days a week.  But busy schedules, lifestyle  and other reasons prevent people from getting that amount of activity.

“Individuals are more likely to do 15 minutes of daily exercise than they are 30 minutes of daily exercise,” the authors wrote.

Basically, a little exercise is better than nothing. And more is better.

But the study was an observational study, so it’s impossible to determine that the health outcomes were entirely due to exercise.  Plus, the exercise behaviors were self-reported, which may not always be accurate.

“Because of its observational nature, Wen and colleagues’ study cannot establish causality, but their results are entirely consistent” with previous findings regarding exercise," wrote Anil Nigam of the Montreal Heart Institute and Martin Juneau of Université de Montréal in an accompanying commentary in the Lancet. Common causes of death such as cancer and heart disease are related to poor nutrition, inflammation and physical inactivity.

“If the minimum amount of exercise we suggest is adhered to, mortality from heart disease, diabetes, and cancer could be reduced,” wrote the study authors.


soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. sarah S

    I feel like this is a big fat DUH! it should be common sense that excersize helps make people healthy.

    August 16, 2011 at 12:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • AC Summers

      For a lot of people it is easier said than done. i.e the explosive rate of diabetes among americans.

      August 16, 2011 at 16:45 | Report abuse |
    • dadatruth

      Recycled studies make up the bulk of the health news.

      August 16, 2011 at 17:05 | Report abuse |
    • MAX

      Cant get up! to much CALL OF DUTY!

      August 16, 2011 at 17:44 | Report abuse |
    • John Pedant

      "DUH! it should be common sense that excersize helps"

      Nice biceps. Shame about the spelling excersizes.

      August 16, 2011 at 19:36 | Report abuse |
  2. AZ Dem

    The sad part is that not enough of our parents are keeping their kids active and we have turned into an overweight, out of shape, and less educated society. The way forward is to reform the way we educate our youth its gotta start somewhere.

    August 16, 2011 at 12:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • AC Summers

      Hard to educate the youth when parents are pulling up to fast food windows and schools are feeding them crap..

      August 16, 2011 at 16:47 | Report abuse |
  3. Lynda

    Building some muscle is a BIG help for diabetes. Having more muscle helps burn some excess sugar in the blood and
    also more calories. Even when you are at rest–you are burning more sugar and calories. Because more muscle mass
    needs more energy and will burn more energy. If you are an older out-of-shape woman go to a sporting goods store
    and buy some free weights (as low as 3 pounds each and start doing curls). It will help your blood sugar a lot and
    burn more calories just by having the added muscle.

    August 16, 2011 at 12:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. erich2112x

    Nothing compares to the endorphin high you get from a full workout. Half hour of bust-out cardio, 45 minutes weights.....feels like a little shot of heroin.

    August 16, 2011 at 13:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jenny

      Sorry to be snarky, but I have to point out that you compare the endorphin high to a little shot of heroin, so... yeah, some things DO compare!

      August 16, 2011 at 14:57 | Report abuse |
    • D

      So have you done heroin then? If so, I won't use you as a health authority. Actually, exercise does NOTHING for my mood. I must be defective somehow. Really, if I have to force myself, I feel even worse after I exercise. Tired and yet still anxious.

      August 16, 2011 at 17:33 | Report abuse |
    • erich2112x

      Sorry Jenny my secretary's off today. She sorts out all that stuff fir me. :)

      August 17, 2011 at 02:01 | Report abuse |
  5. Vick

    I agree w/ erich2112x-working out properly gives you feeling that would rival any drugs on the market today. I do high intensity circuit training myself followed by walking briskly up a 2 mi. hill. I feel the extra rush of endorphines at the end.

    August 16, 2011 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      I live in a hilly place and it very tiring to walk the hills. I just feel exhaustion-not in any kind of a good way.

      August 16, 2011 at 17:35 | Report abuse |
    • D

      In fact, I had to walk uphill to work for *five years* and it never got any better.

      August 16, 2011 at 17:36 | Report abuse |
    • Typinator

      D... Sounds like there are some other things going on with you physically. If you're skinny and don't exercise I'm inclined to think perhaps your diet is inadequate or you have some sort of thyroid or other hormone issue. Check with a doc – get checked over.

      August 16, 2011 at 22:07 | Report abuse |
  6. Josh

    "Basically, a little exercise is better than nothing. And more is better."

    What an enlightening article!

    August 16, 2011 at 14:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • D

      As a skinny person who hates exercise, this is news to me. It gives me a starting place at least.

      August 16, 2011 at 17:38 | Report abuse |
  7. Pete

    In other news, opening your eyes helps you see!

    August 16, 2011 at 14:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. whaaaa

    "14 percent reduced mortality " – you mean they never die??

    August 16, 2011 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. no can do

    Exercise, ha ha ha yea right what's that.

    August 16, 2011 at 17:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Justsayin

    People that do not exercise/stay active, are lazy slugs......period.

    August 16, 2011 at 17:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Amanda Luvinkis

      And people who make broad generalizations are brainless slugs...period.

      August 16, 2011 at 17:53 | Report abuse |
    • no can do

      You should give lazy slugs some credit, they probably get more exercise than i do.

      August 16, 2011 at 18:02 | Report abuse |
    • patcee

      Little bit judgmental. Try inspiring people instead of calling them names.

      August 16, 2011 at 20:48 | Report abuse |
  11. Chipolopolo

    Quiet shallow

    August 16, 2011 at 17:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. M3NTA7

    A lot of things may seem obvious, but there is value to scientific studies that go beyond the study itself.

    August 16, 2011 at 18:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. pbs

    It seems that most of the comments are from people who specialize in living in trailer parks and probably consider good health to be keeping their belly buttons and butt cracks free from debris (and yes, it is spelled correctly...it means garbage). Find something to do other than comment on something positive. Oh...and get the pork chop out of your mouth while typing.....

    August 16, 2011 at 18:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. the point

    I think the main thrust of the article is to convince people that they can get health benefits from exercise even if they aren't world class athletes. Many people think it takes too long to exercise effectively so they don't do anything.

    August 16, 2011 at 19:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. poiuytre

    Most American spend at least 15 minutes a day engaging in physical activity... like going to the fridge to fetch a cold one, reaching for the remote when parked on the couch with their supersized value meals, pumping gas at the Arco station and walking inside to buy pork rinds and Slim Jims, etc.

    August 16, 2011 at 19:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Michael Hunt

    Does rubbing one out count as exercise?

    August 16, 2011 at 19:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. NoWay

    15 min of exercise is probably ok for the people of Taiwan, but for the western world, 15 minutes is not enough (granted 15 min. is better than nothing), but for Americans it is going to be required to get up and move more than just 15 min a day. Goal has always been 30 min or more of physical acitivies. I've already had it ingrained in my brain, not gonna change now.

    August 16, 2011 at 20:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. elc

    Really? Wow, I've never heard this before. Such original reporting.

    August 16, 2011 at 20:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. kel

    I want to print out this article. I can't find the printer-friendly button! Did I miss it?

    August 16, 2011 at 21:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. sarah S

    @john pedant That's awesome how you make fun of my spelling while making the same spelling mistake. excercise** is that better? d.head

    August 16, 2011 at 23:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. larry

    Correcting your eating habits first is a better idea. 15 minutes of exercise can hardly overcome one trip through a fast food joint let alone show any results that could be measured.

    August 17, 2011 at 03:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. QuietStormX

    Really, Thow I would say just get off your Butt and break a sweat to get effects and feel good about yourself. I don't get this put-put stuff. It does nothing for your health unless you're very overweight for your body and medical bills from surgery and post opt. And these diets can't do the work for you ether without breaking sweat to get it off and stay off. And If you do a activity daily or work on your feet walking or something. That happpened for me. First, I was in the U.S. Airforce and went through basic training in Texas. Then I had a job where I worked on my feet for eight hours with breaks and down periods between work. I noticed my waist size shrinking and I didn't feel tired, just worked out at the end of the night. I slept well and woke freash in the afternoon. I ended up with a 28" waist and had to buy new clothes. (Just turned 49yo, 5'6" and 135 to 140 lbs)

    August 17, 2011 at 08:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bill

      I think that's the biggest problem and reason for why we have so much obesity running rampant in our society. So many of us (myself included) have jobs where we sit on our butts staring at computers all day. Now, there are things you can do to help like making sure to at least get up and walk around the office or go for a walk at lunch. But for most people, exercise has to happen before or after work. I like that 10000 steps plan with pedometers. we did it for work last fall and it was a great reminder to try to get some exercise in each and every day.

      August 17, 2011 at 11:28 | Report abuse |
  23. k

    I was going to work out but I read this article instead...

    August 17, 2011 at 16:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Thurston Murray

    Isn't it about time we figured out how to reverse plaque in arteries through injection or drug intervention. Then I figure we would all perk up and exercise out of the shere joy of reversing the disease!!!

    August 17, 2011 at 16:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Tigerwould

    I get my motivation to exercise by looking at fat people. I have to do an hour a day because I see so many! Thanks to all you fatties out there. Please don't change...I need you.

    August 23, 2011 at 22:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Jason Phelps

    As the research in Taiwan showed, 15 minutes of physical activity a day can inscribe health benefits that can possibly extend three more years to life expectancy. One thing I noticed while reading the research was that the results were self reported. Self reported data by 416,175 individuals leaves room for some error or unreliable reports. Any behavior reported in any type of research may not always be accurate.

    I am not exactly sure about obesity rates in Taiwan but 15 minutes a day for any American is a must to accomplish. Americans are currently fighting an obesity epidemic and must shoot for higher goals maybe 30—40 minutes a day to gain a grasp on our health and obesity rates. As much as this article seems common sense, some people do not even get those 15 minutes a day of activity. Whether if it is because of a job, disability or other self proclaimed reasons, we all need to try our hardest to educate and inform others about the true health benefits that a little physical activity can do as demonstrated in this article. That way, everyone can try there hardest to value physical activity and choose to live a healthier lifestyle.

    August 29, 2011 at 13:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Sitomi

    09.03.10 at 11:24 amBubby Brister's MopNational Birthday Suit Day:I've done a lot of thinking on this: I will itnuittse a database with pictures of every person in the United States naked. Every year, each person over 18 years of age can request to view any one person’s naked picture for a viewing period of ten minutes. After they’ve used up their viewing, they have to wait another year until they can view another. It’s just not fair for all these foxy ladies to be walking around without anyone being able to see them naked. It would eliminate alot of the elitism in this country. My first pick: Sarah Palin.

    September 14, 2012 at 01:40 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.