Physical activity at any intensity linked to lower risk of early death

The report encourage people to keep physically active to help reduce their risk of getting dementia

The report encourage people to keep physically active to help reduce their risk of getting dementia

The study noted that even a small increase in light activity, such as washing dishes, a little gentle gardening, or shuffling around the house, might help stave off an early death among older adults.

In the study, the team analyzed data from eight studies that included more than 36,000 adults, aged 40 and older, who were followed for an average of nearly six years.

Professor Tom Yates, a professor of physical activity, sedentary behaviour and health at the University of Leicester and a co-author of the study, said: "These results are fantastic".

Professor Ulf Ekelund at the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences and first author of the study said: "It is important for elderly people, who might not be able to do much moderate-intensity activity, that just moving around and doing light-intensity activity will have strong effects and is beneficial".

Researchers found that any level of physical activity, regardless of intensity, was associated with a substantially lower risk of early death.

Moderate activity includes brisk walking, vacuuming or mowing the lawn, while vigorous activity includes jogging, carrying heavy loads or digging.

Gavin Sandercrock from the University of Essex said: "The study reinforces the important message that getting the least active people to do even just a little bit more physical activity can have important health benefits".

The study was conducted in the United States and Western Europe on 36,383 adults who were at least 40 years old with an average age of 62.

During follow-up, 2149 (5.9%) participants died.

A similarly steep decline in death rates was associated with increasing amounts of light physical activity up to about 300 minutes (5 hours) a day, and moderate-intensity physical activity of about 24 minutes per day.

For adults up to the age of 64, the NHS recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or brisk walking every week and strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles. However, these are based mainly on self-reported activity, which is often imprecise.

On the other hand, being sedentary for nine or more hours a day was associated with a higher risk of death.

It stated that higher levels of any kind of physical activity helped ward off an early grave for most. It has previously been widely assumed that more is better in terms of physical activity for health.

However, the findings in the study may not apply to other populations and younger people.

In a linked editorial in The BMJ, independent researchers acknowledged the importance of the findings, concluding that, "developing ways to limit sedentary time and increase activity at any level could considerably improve health and reduce mortality".