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HEALTH
 

Get moving! Exercise really does pay off, says long-term study

A runner is silhouetted against the sunrise on his early morning workout near Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, across the Potomac River from the nation's capital. Research released on January 9, 2017, suggests that people who pack their workouts into one or two days a week lower their risk of dying as much as those who exercise more often, as long as they get enough of it. AP Photo/J. David Ake

Whether you walk or you run, any exercise is good for you, health researchers have found.

Even people who get less exercise than recommended have less risk than folks who don't break a sweat at all.

"If someone is completely inactive, the best thing they can do is even getting out and taking a walk," said Hannah Arem, a health researcher at George Washington University in Washington, District of Columbia.

Some people may think they don't have enough time for small amounts of exercise to matter. The results are "encouraging or perhaps motivating" for these people, Arem said.

She had no role in the study but wrote a commentary published with the results Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.

It's Best To Spread Out Your Exercise

Previously, U.S. and global guidelines called for 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. Ideally, the guidelines asked for exercise to be spread out so you get some on most days.

Those numbers were based on many previous studies, which suggested many health benefits beyond the risk of early death which this study measured.

Some people pack their workouts into one or two sessions a week. These people lower their risk of dying over roughly the next decade nearly as much as people who exercise more often, the new research suggests.

Researchers at Loughborough University in England looked a survey of nearly 64,000 adults in England and Scotland from 1994 to 2008. By last year, 8,802 of these people had died.

Grouped By Amounts Of Exercise

Participants were grouped according to how much exercise they said they got the previous month.

— Inactive people, who did no exercise in their free time, made up 63 percent of the people in the study.

— Regular exercisers made up 11 percent.

— "Weekend warriors"—that is, people who exercise a lot  but in one or two sessions—made up 4 percent of the survey.

— Insufficiently active exercisers, who exercise less than the recommended weekly amount, were 22 percent of the study.

For "weekend warriors" and insufficient exercisers, the risk of dying was about 30 percent lower than people who were completely inactive. People who regularly exercised lowered their risk a little more: by 35 percent.

Heartening Results

Any amount of activity helped cut the risk of dying of heart disease by about 40 percent, compared to being a couch potato.

Exercise has many other benefits such as helping to prevent dementia, depression, high blood pressure, unhealthy sleep patterns and diabetes, independent experts say. Some of these effects don't last very long, Arem said.  The more often you exercise, the more of these benefits you'll experience. 

"I don't know that we're ready to say, based on this study, that people shouldn't try to exercise more than that if they can," said Dr. Daniel Rader, preventive cardiology chief at the University of Pennsylvania. "People who exercise more regularly report that they feel like they have a better quality of life," among other benefits, he said.

At Least Do Something

Still, the results are "quite fascinating and a bit surprising" on the "dose" of exercise needed for benefit, Rader said. "Even if you only have time to do something once a week, this study would suggest it's still worth doing."

Still, the study may be imperfect. More than 90 percent of the participants in the study were Caucasian. Because of this, there may not be enough genetic diversity.

Each participant's exercise habits were only assessed at the start of the study, and they could have changed over time.

The biggest limitation is that this type of study can only suggest exercise and health risks may be related. They cannot prove with certainty that they are.

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1
Anchor 2: Central Idea

Which two of the following sentences from the article contain central ideas?

  1. Even people who get less exercise than recommended have less risk than folks who don't break a sweat at all.

  2. Some people may think they don't have enough time for small amounts of exercise to matter.

  3. Previously, U.S. and global guidelines called for 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week.

  4. The more often you exercise, the more of these benefits you'll experience.

A

1 and 3

B

1 and 4

C

2 and 3

D

2 and 4

2
Anchor 2: Central Idea

Which statement would be MOST important to include in an accurate and objective summary of the article?

A

Researchers surveyed an amazing 64,000 adults to arrive at the conclusions in their study.

B

Previous studies did a better job of suggesting health benefits beyond the risks that this study measured.

C

The study found that people who exercise two days a week benefit as much as those who exercise more often.

D

More diversity should have been included in the study for it to be taken seriously by scientists.

3
Anchor 3: People, Events & Ideas

Which answer choice accurately characterizes Hannah Arem's reaction to the study?

A

She is encouraged to start exercising herself so that she can improve her long-term health.

B

She is annoyed that the researchers who did the study did not include her in their results.

C

She is worried that people who have been inactive will injure themselves by trying to work too hard.

D

She is hopeful that the study will make people who are not exercising start to do small things.

4
Anchor 3: People, Events & Ideas

Dr. Daniel Rader would be MOST likely to agree with which of the following statements?

A

This study demonstrates that people can begin to exercise less often and stay as healthy as they were before.

B

It is wonderful that the study says people can benefit from little exercise, but they should still try to exercise as often as possible.

C

The results of the study are shocking, and definitely prove that people should not worry about spending more time exercising.

D

In some cases it might be harmful for people to try to exercise more often than they feel they are comfortable doing.

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