It Takes This Much Exercise to Ward Off 5 Major Diseases

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You might want to step up your exercise routine.

New research has determined how much physical activity it takes to ward off five potentially deadly diseases — and it’s a lot more than the World Health Organization has been recommending.

A study published in The BMJ medical journal this week found that getting more physical activity per week was associated with a lower risk of:

  1. Breast cancer
  2. Colon cancer
  3. Diabetes
  4. Heart disease
  5. Stroke

Specifically, most of the health gains occur when your weekly physical activity amounts to 3,000 to 4,000 metabolic equivalent (MET) minutes. MET minutes are a measure of physical activity used by experts.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends at least 600 MET minutes per week, according to the study. That recommendation could be achieved with about 150 minutes per week of brisk walking or 75 minutes per week of running, for example.

In addition to exercise such as running and cycling, MET minutes can also be achieved by becoming more physically active at work or at home, such as by doing housework or gardening.

The BMJ explains that while many past studies have shown that physical activity benefits health — which prompted the WHO’s recommendation — scientists haven’t known exactly how much exercise or what type of physical activity was necessary to lower the risk of common diseases.

In the study published this week, a team of researchers from the U.S. and Australia analyzed data from 174 prior studies of how physical activity affects the risk of being diagnosed with the five diseases mentioned above.

They concluded that getting several times more physical activity than the WHO recommends is “strongly associated with a lower risk” of the five diseases studied.

Take diabetes, for example. Researchers found that people who achieved 600 MET minutes per week had a 2 percent lower risk of diabetes than people who didn’t get physical activity.

However, people who achieved 3,600 MET minutes per week lowered their diabetes risk by an additional 19 percent.

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