Light exercise may be enough to cut your risk of premature death by almost 30 per cent, a team led by Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) discovered, with even a slight increase in activity bringing substantial benefits.
The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, was lead by Glasgow-based Dr Sebastien Chastin.
“It’s a law of diminishing returns: if you do little to start with, you get a big benefit because your initial risk is so high,” he said.
The authors wanted to understand how daily light physical activity affects people’s metabolic health and their risk of premature death. They looked at the results from multiple health studies, searching through all the research published to date and combining the results.
Dr Chastin added: “We found that moving around positively affects the way the human body regulates blood sugar and insulin in the short term. This matters because our bodies only function adequately when blood sugar levels remain constant. If the blood sugar or insulin become too high, it can lead to serious health complications.
“When a person interrupts sitting with a few minutes of light activity such as slow walking, we found it reduced blood sugar and insulin levels by about 20 per cent to 25 per cent on average. People with Type 2 diabetes enjoy even greater benefits, suggesting this might be a good way for them to control their blood sugar.“
The scientists say there is still no doubt that moderate to vigorous activity is more potent - you would perhaps need to do about four minutes of light activity to get the same benefit as one minute of more strenuous activity.
Dr Chastin continued: “This is great news for people who find it hard to add exercise into their weekly routine, as it gives them more options.
“We can start thinking about how to help very inactive and sedentary people incorporate more light activity into their daily routine as a stepping stone towards a more active lifestyle. It also raises possibilities for people who are physically unable to do strenuous exercise.”