Regular exercise may curb deadly diseases

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Getting lots of exercise may reduce your risk for five common diseases, a new report suggests.

How much activity required?

Researchers analysed 174 studies published between 1980 and 2016, and found that people with high levels of weekly physical activity had a lower risk of breast cancer, colon cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

The investigators used a formula called MET minutes to estimate how much activity offered the greatest health benefit. MET minutes measure how much energy you burn during physical activity.

Read: More doctors are prescribing exercise instead of medication

The study findings showed the biggest benefit at 3,000 to 4,000 MET minutes a week. A person could get 3,000 MET minutes by weaving activity into their daily routine – for example, 10 minutes of climbing stairs; 15 minutes of vacuuming; 20 minutes of gardening; 20 minutes of running; and 25 minutes of walking or cycling.

"With population ageing, and an increasing number of cardiovascular and diabetes deaths since 1990, greater attention and investments in interventions to promote physical activity in the general public is required," lead author Hmwe Kyu wrote. Kyu is an acting assistant professor at the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation in Seattle.

Diverse data

"More studies using the detailed quantification of total physical activity will help to find a more precise estimate for different levels of physical activity," the study concluded.

Read: Exercise can reduce your cancer risk by up to 40%

The study was published in the journal BMJ.

Researchers at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland and the International Prevention Research Institute in Lyon, France, reacted to the findings in an accompanying editorial.

The editorial noted that while the study brings together diverse data on exercise and disease prevention, "it cannot tell us whether risk reductions would be different with short duration intense physical activity or longer duration light physical activity".

The editorial said future studies "must streamline their measurement and reporting for real gains in knowledge".

Read more:

The real benefits of exercise 

An exercise guide for people with limited mobility 

5 ways to get your exercise groove back

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