Just half the amount of recommended exercise can cut the risk of serious illness, academics have found.
Doing 75 minutes of light exercise – such as a brisk walk – a week can make a “big difference” to people’s health.
Professor Conrad Earnest and colleagues at the University of Bath’s department for health studied patients with metabolic syndrome – a combination of medical disorders that together increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The study was designed and carried out in the United States to examine the minimal threshold for exercise benefits based on public physical activity guidelines.
The guidelines, which are very similar to those in the UK, recommend that adults do at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as brisk walking, a week and muscle strengthening for two more days a week.
People who took part in the trial were split into groups which were given exercise set at 50%, 100% and 150% of the recommended guidelines.
The study referred to criteria for metabolic syndrome set out in the National Cholesterol Education Programme, including waist circumference and blood pressure, and used an analytical technique developed by researchers at the Cambridge Medical Research Council.
The results showed that these metabolic syndrome characteristics were improved in those who did as little as 50% of the guidelines.
Prof Earnest said: “Our results show that people can significantly improve their metabolic syndrome risk at just half the dose of current exercise guidelines, showing that even a little really goes a long way to improving health. In essence, there’s really no reason not to do something active. These findings show us that even those who do not enjoy physical activity can still make big differences to their health by doing a small amount.”
The results of the study are published in the paper Dose Effect of Cardio respiratory Exercise on Metabolic Syndrome in Postmenopausal Women in The American Journal of Cardiology.