A new review has found that doing exercise on a regular basis can help cut the risk of more than 20 illnesses.
According to a study published in the International Journal of Clinical Practice, exercising on a weekly basis can reduce the chances of getting serious diseases such as colon cancer, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and stroke.
Study leader Leslie Alford, from the school of physiotherapy at the University of East Anglia, said other than not smoking, “being physically active is the most powerful lifestyle choice an individual can make for improved health outcomes”.
As part of the study, he reviewed 40 papers on the issue that have been published over the last four years.
“The literature reviewed shows that how long people live and how healthy they are depends on a complex mix of factors, including their lifestyle, where they live and even luck,” he said.
“Individuals have an element of control over some of these factors, including obesity, diet, smoking and physical activity.
“Although the focus of my study was on men’s health, the messages on physical activity are relevant to both sexes and all age groups.”
The review found it is never too late to start taking exercise, with older people seeing benefits from regular activity.
Guidelines are that people should aim for 150 minutes per week of moderately intense physical activity, such as brisk walking for 30 minutes five days a week.
Those who undertake more vigorous intensity exercise, such as jogging, can do 20 minutes three days a week.
A combination of moderate and vigorous exercise can be used to meet the guidelines.
“Ideally, to gain maximum health benefits people should exercise, not smoke, eat a healthy diet and have a body mass index of less than 25,” said Mr Alford. “The more of these healthy traits an individual has, the less likely they are to develop a range of chronic disorders.
“Even if people can’t give up smoking and maintain a healthy weight, they can still gain health benefits from increasing the amount of regular exercise they take.”