Walking for 11 Minutes a Day May Add Years to Your Life

You likely have heard that walking is good for you. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a daily walk can help lower stress, control blood pressure, improve sleep, strengthen bones and boost cardiovascular health by reducing your risk of stroke, obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease (the leading cause of death globally).

However, while the Physical Guidelines for Americans set out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adults accumulate at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity weekly, you may still reap some benefits by doing just 11 minutes of walking a day, according to research.

A 2023 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that one in ten premature deaths could be prevented if everyone engaged in moderate-intensity physical activity like brisk walking for 11 minutes daily (approximately 75 minutes per week).

Furthermore, the study suggests this amount of physical activity may lower the risk of some of our top causes of death, such as heart disease, stroke and cancer. Keep reading to learn more.

What the Study Found

In the most extensive study of its kind, a research team from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge conducted a meta-analysis of several large prospective studies, analyzing data from 196 peer-reviewed articles involving more than 30 million participants from around the globe.

The researchers examined the association between physical activity and various health outcomes, including cardiovascular disease, several types of cancer and premature death, which is defined by the World Health Organization as deaths between the ages of 30 and 70.

The researchers found that moderate-intensity exercise (e.g., brisk walking, hiking, cycling, dancing, tennis) beyond 150 minutes per week offered marginal benefits in lower disease risk or early death.

However, getting in even half this amount at 75 minutes per week provided significant benefits, with a 23% reduced risk of premature death. Seventy-five minutes per week of moderate exercise reduced the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 17% and cancer by 7%.

In addition, the research team calculated that if participants across all the studies accumulated at least 75 minutes of moderate activity, one in ten cases (10%) of early death, one in 20 cases (5%) of cardiovascular disease and one in 30 (3%) of cancer could be prevented.

“We know that physical activity, such as walking or cycling, is good for you, especially if it raises your heart rate. But what we’ve found is there are substantial benefits to heart health and reducing your risk of cancer even if you can only manage 10 minutes every day,” said James Woodcock, PhD, a Professor of Transport and Health Modeling with the MRC Epidemiology Unit, in a press release.

“Moderate activity doesn’t have to involve what we normally think of exercise, such as sports or running,” said Leandro Garcia, PhD, of Queen’s University Belfast, in a statement. “Sometimes, replacing some habits is all that is needed.

For example, try to walk or cycle to your work or study place instead of using a car, or engage in active play with your kids or grandkids. Doing activities that you enjoy and that are easy to include in your weekly routine is an excellent way to become more active.”

The Bottom Line

A large meta-analysis from the University of Cambridge found that 75 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week (or 11 minutes daily) may significantly lower the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, cancer and early death.

Getting beyond 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week offered some additional health benefits, too. Whether you prefer going for a brisk walk or doing other moderate-intensity activities, ensure you accumulate at least 75 minutes a week to help boost your overall health and potentially extend your healthspan.

Talk to your doctor or healthcare provider before starting a new exercise program and for any health-related questions.

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