How much physical activity do we need to do to stay healthy and live longer?

This is one of the most important questions in the modern world, where physical inactivity is the fourth leading risk factor for death worldwide. In fact, today the Department for Culture Media and Sport will urge more Britons to take up sport after finding around a quarter of British adults report doing less than 30-minutes of exercise a week.

This comes on the same day as research from France reporting that even low dose of physical activity reduces the risk of early death in adults over 60 years old. The researchers looked at nine other studies and analysed the data together, in what’s called a systematic review and meta-analysis – a method often considered to be “gold standard” for developing public health guidelines. They found that people who reported doing 75 to 149-minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity a week had a 22% lower risk of dying prematurely compared to people doing no physical activity. Importantly, and the bit that perhaps wasn’t reported so well, is that the more physical activity people reported, the more they reduced their risk – 150-299 minutes of physical activity reduced risk by 28%, with a 35% lower risk in those reporting 300-minutes or more.

But, both these reports focus on the sport or other structured activity that people report doing – relying on people understanding what activity “counts” and remembering how much of this type activity they did and for how long. Realistically, people forget. They are also less likely to report the walk to the shops to pick up a pint of milk, or walking up the stairs instead of using the elevator. But, these activities that we all do as part of our everyday lives can also benefit our health.

When it comes to physical activity, doing some is better than doing nothing but doing more is better. Crucially, we need to understand what activities “count” for us – it’s likely we are all already doing something that would help us meet the guidelines – we just need to find out what it is for us. For some it’s a weekly Zumba class, for others it’s a round of golf, it may even be walking the dog or going shopping.

In truth, there are different ways of harnessing the protective properties of physical activity because it has many dimensions, each known to have clear biological and health benefits. The personalised multidimensional physical activity profiles visualised in the KiActiv system, created by our partners at the University of Bath, enhance understanding and inspire confidence to change and optimise your individual physical activity for a longer, healthier life.

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