Higher physical activities can lower risk of chronic diseases

Washington: Higher levels of total physical activity can lower risk of five common chronic diseases — breast and bowel cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, finds a study.

According to the study published in the journal The BMJ, climbing stairs for 10 minutes, vacuuming for 15 minutes, gardening for 20 minutes, running for 20 minutes, and walking or cycling for 25 minutes can lower the risk of chronic diseases.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended a minimum total physical activity level of 600 metabolic equivalent (MET) minutes a week across different “domains” of daily life.

To examine how much the type and quantity of physical activity reduces the risk of common conditions, the researchers analysed the results of 174 studies associated with total physical activity and at least one of five chronic diseases — breast cancer, bowel (colon) cancer, diabetes, ischemic heart disease and ischemic stroke.

They found that a higher level of total weekly physical activity was associated with a lower risk of all five conditions. Most health gains occurred at a total activity level of 3000-4000 MET minutes a week, with diminishing returns at higher activity levels.

The results suggested that total physical activity needs to be several times higher than the current recommended minimum level of 600 MET minutes a week to potentially achieve larger reductions in risks of these diseases.

“With population ageing and an increasing number of cardiovascular and diabetes deaths, greater attention and investments in interventions to promote physical activity in the general public is required. More studies using the detailed quantification of total physical activity will help to find a more precise estimate for different levels of physical activity,” said Hmwe H. Kyu, Assistant Professor at the University of Washington.