The first month of New Year’s Resolutions has passed, and not all of us managed to get back on the horse in January. I myself am struggling to carve out a solid hour each day to exercise. With work and a heaping to-do list of chores and other responsibilities, it’s hard to find the time! However, I might have the wrong approach. According to a new study, something really is better than nothing: Just 10 minutes of moderate intensity exercise is enough to boost your longevity.
The news comes from researchers in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Cancer Institute of Rockville, Maryland. Published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the study sheds light on why just a little physical activity may be enough to add years to our lifespan.
The Reason for the Research
If you feel as though you’ve heard about this idea before, you aren’t far off. Previous research has already established that exercise can substantially reduce the number of deaths in the US. However, the authors of this most recent study argue that past studies relied on people’s self-reported exercise habits. They also based their data on a big increase in exercise — usually 30 minutes per day. While more physical activity is often better, it’s not always realistic. Could just 10 minutes a day have a substantial impact as well?
With this in mind, the researchers collected data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to test their theory. (The NHANES is a survey program that gathers data on a sample of about 5,000 US persons per year. Participants offer information on their health via interviews and physical examinations.)
The researchers focused on 4,840 adults between 40 and 85 years old, all of whom had participated in the NHANES from 2003 to 2006. A little more than 10 percent of the participants identified as non-Hispanic Black, and about five percent identified as Mexican-American. (The majority of the study participants identified as white.)
All participants had accelerometer data, meaning they had worn accelerometers to measure their physical activity levels. The research team split the adults into eight levels of physical activity: those who completed zero to 19 minutes per day, 20 to 39 minutes, 40 to 59 minutes, and so on.
After gathering the accelerometer data, the researchers checked whether any participants had died by consulting the National Death Index. Using statistical scenarios, they found that if adults were to increase their moderate-to-vigorous exercise levels by 10 minutes per day, the number of annual US deaths would shrink by 6.9 percent. If adults increased their exercise by 20 or 30 minutes per day, the number of deaths would shrink by 13 and 16.9 percent, respectively.
Saving 6.9 percent of deaths per year doesn’t sound like much, until you look at the real numbers. If we were to collectively exercise for just 10 minutes daily, an estimated 111,174 people wouldn’t die this year, according to the study authors.
Hopefully, this is the inspiration you needed to pick up a fun, moderate-intensity activity for 10 minutes a day!
What is moderate intensity exercise?
As explained by the Cleveland Clinic, moderate-intensity exercise is an activity that boosts your heart rate about 50 to 60 percent higher than its resting rate. Here are some moderate-intensity exercises to try that you could complete in 10 minutes:
- Walking at a pace of at least 4 miles per hour
- Zumba dancing
- Swimming (at an easy rate of about one lap per minute)
- A 10-minute, total-body, at-home workout (like this one from Denise Austin)
- Walking up and down the stairs
There are so many ways to fill those 10 minutes. With a little extra research, you can easily find a 10-minute activity that works for you. As for me, I’ve been trying out all the 10-minute exercise-at-home videos I can find!