The recommendations on the physical activity levels required for optimal health have always been a focal point in the fitness world. While the physical activity guidelines have highlighted specific recommendations over the years, the question still arises: How much vigorous and moderate physical activity is associated with lower mortality?
A recently published study by Dong Hoon Lee et al. (2022) investigated the association between long-term leisure-time physical activity (both moderate and vigorous) and mortality. The study examined 116,221 US adults over a span of 30 years.
- All-Cause Mortality Reduction:
Vigorous Physical Activity (VPA) (75–149 min/wk): 19% lower risk.
Moderate Physical Activity (MPA) (150–299 min/wk): 19-25% lower risk.
- Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) Mortality Reduction:
VPA: 31% lower risk.
MPA: 19-25% lower risk.
- Non-CVD Mortality Reduction:
VPA: 15% lower risk.
MPA: 19-25% lower risk.
Furthermore, the study found that performing 150-300 min/wk of VPA or 300-600 min/wk of MPA, or a combination of both, yielded the maximum association with lower mortality. However, beyond these durations, no significant additional benefits or harms were identified.
Lee et al.’s findings echo several previous studies:
- Warburton, Nicol & Bredin (2006): Their systematic review noted significant health benefits for adults who engaged in moderate amounts of physical activity, with greater health benefits as the volume and intensity of physical activity increased.
- Arem et al. (2015): This study reported a nonlinear relationship between leisure-time physical activity and mortality. While benefits were observed with activity levels three to five times higher than the recommended minimum, higher levels of activity did not result in harm.
- Moore et al. (2012): This study found that leisure-time physical activity, even below the recommended amount, was associated with a reduced risk of mortality. Those exceeding the recommendation had a 31% lower risk of death.
Implications for Fitness Professionals
- Individualised Training Programmes: While the general recommendation lies in the 150-300 min/wk of VPA or 300-600 min/wk of MPA, some individuals might benefit from customised programmes. The study suggests that for those below 300 min/wk of MPA, adding VPA can be beneficial.
- Balancing Intensity: It’s crucial not to push clients to go well beyond the upper limit of the recommendations without clear objectives, as no further mortality benefits were identified.
- Holistic Approach: Emphasise the importance of both MPA and VPA, as an equivalent combination of both can yield maximum health benefits.
While adhering to the guidelines remains pivotal, this study serves as a reminder for fitness professionals that it’s the consistent, long-term engagement in physical activity, both moderate and vigorous, that counts towards health benefits. With the proper balance of intensity and duration, we can aim for healthier, longer lives.
- Lee, D. H., Rezende, L. F. M., Joh, H. K., Keum, N., Ferrari, G., … & Giovannucci, E. L. (2022). Long-Term Leisure-Time Physical Activity Intensity and All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality: A Prospective Cohort of US Adults. Circulation, 146(8), 523-534. Click here to review the full research article
- Warburton, D. E. R., Nicol, C. W., & Bredin, S. S. D. (2006). Health benefits of physical activity: the evidence. Canadian medical association journal, 174(6), 801-809. Click here to review the full research article
- Arem, H., Moore, S. C., Patel, A., Hartge, P., Berrington de Gonzalez, A., Visvanathan, K., … & Matthews, C. E. (2015). Leisure time physical activity and mortality: a detailed pooled analysis of the dose-response relationship. JAMA internal medicine, 175(6), 959-967. Click here to review the full research article
- Moore, S. C., Patel, A. V., Matthews, C. E., Berrington de Gonzalez, A., Park, Y., Katki, H. A., … & Hartge, P. (2012). Leisure time physical activity of moderate to vigorous intensity and mortality: a large pooled cohort analysis. PLoS medicine, 9(11), e1001335. Click here to review the full research article
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