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Even just 15 minutes of exercise a day will improve health

Do you feel defeated by the mere thought of trying to achieve 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise, at least five days a week? That's the amount of physical activity most public health bodies recommend for the average adult. Well, here's some good news for you: New research suggests that just 15 minutes of exercise per day can still bestow some health benefits.

The findings, published online by The Lancet, are based on a study of 400,000 people in Taiwan. Using the level of self-reported activity, the participants were slotted into one of five categories: inactive, low, medium, high or very high activity.

After eight years of follow-up, the researchers, led by Chi-Pang Wen of Taiwan's National Health Research Institutes, found that even a little exercise was significantly better than none. The individuals in the low-activity group – who did about 15 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per day – had a 14 per cent reduced risk of all-cause mortality, a 10 per cent reduced risk of all-cancer mortality, a 20 per cent reduction from cardiovascular mortality and, on average, a three-year longer life expectancy compared to the people in the inactive group. A brisk walk would be considered moderate intensity exercise.

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"Hopefully this study will encourage people to start incorporating exercise into their daily lives," said Anil Nigam of the Montreal Heart Institute and co-author of a commentary published along with the study.

Not surprisingly, the research also showed that health benefits increased with greater activity.

Although the study found 15 minutes a day is beneficial, "we still recommend 30 minutes because we know that more is better," said Dr. Nigam. "But what this study tells us is that you can actually split up your activity into blocks throughout the day. So 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening may be more manageable for a lot of busy people, rather than doing 30 minutes of exercise in one stretch."

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