New research finds that the health benefits of exercise don’t necessarily rest on the frequency or duration of exercise; which is why Public Health England has published its guidelines for recommended levels of activity.  These guidelines are fully endorsed by leading occupational health advisors like Medigold Health, who advise employers on how best to maintain good workplace health.

Based on a survey of about 64,000 adults aged over 40 in England and Scotland, researchers from Loughborough University and the University of Sydney analysed data on the time people spent doing exercise and their health over 18 years. They found that no matter how often people exercised in a week (or for how long) the health benefits were similar as long as they met recommended activity guidelines.  The findings were reported in a BBC article published on 10 January.

Some exercise is better than none at all

Dr Gary O’Donovan, study author and expert in physical activity and health, from Loughborough University, said the key was doing exercise that was “purposeful, and done with the intention of improving health”.

Compared with those who didn’t exercise at all, people who did some kind of physical activity – whether regularly or irregularly – showed a lower risk of dying from cancer and from cardiovascular disease (CVD), which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Specific examples were:

  • “Weekend warriors”, who did all their exercise on one or two days of the week, were found to lower their risk of dying from CVD by 41% and cancer by 18%, compared with the inactive.
  • Those who exercised regularly on three or more days per week reduced their risks by 41% and 21%.
  • Even the “insufficiently active” lowered their risk by a significant amount – 37% and 14%, the researchers said, writing in an article published online in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Recommended options for effective minimum exercise levels

Justin Varney, National Lead for adult health and wellbeing at Public Health England (PHE), said: “The maximum health benefits are achieved from 150 minutes of moderate activity per week.  “However, every little counts and just 10 minutes of physical activity will provide health benefits.”

People aged 19-64 should try to adopt one of the following regimes:

OPTION A:   at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, such as cycling or fast walking every week PLUS on two or more days a week – strength exercises (such as lifting weights) that work all the major muscles

OPTION B:  75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, such as running or a game of singles tennis every week PLUS strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles

OPTION C:  a mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity every week, such as two 30-minute runs plus 30 minutes of fast walking PLUS strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles.

Exercise routines and workplace health

Although the new study cannot show a direct link between physical activity and a reduction in health risks in individuals, all other research has shown that exercise and a healthy diet can reduce the risk of a range of diseases – such as cancer, heart disease and type-2 diabetes – as well as helping to control weight, blood pressure and reduce symptoms of depression.

As well as taking its toll on individuals’ health, lack of exercise can have a detrimental impact on businesses so business owners should be doing all they can to keep employees healthy and active.  Leading UK occupational health advisors, Medigold Health, have a proven track record in doing just that.

Contact the Medigold team now team for more information about their full range of occupational health services.

Source: NHS Choices and Public Health England

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Author: Medigold Health