Research Reveals Types of Exercise That Can Extend Your Lifespan

Recent research points out that you can start reaping the benefits of exercise with as little as about four minutes of vigorous activity per day.

By: Ellen Wan | The Epoch Times

The health benefits of exercise are well-established, with exercise being known to reduce the risk of death from diseases such as cancer and heart disease and fight depression. Even without going to the gym, simply engaging in daily activities can enhance your physical and mental well-being.

Due to both work and leisure, modern people often spend prolonged periods sitting. Research has shown that replacing 30 minutes of sedentary time with light-intensity physical activity each day can reduce mortality risk by 17%; if replaced with moderate to vigorous physical activity, the risk can be reduced by 35%.

Association between Exercise & Reduced Mortality Risk

In February, a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology analysed physical activity and health data from 412,413 American adults. The results showed that compared to those who were inactive, women and men who engaged in regular leisure-time physical activity had a 24% and 15% lower risk of all-cause mortality, respectively. The researchers also found that, compared to inactive people, women and men who regularly engaged in muscle-strengthening activities had a 19% and 11% lower mortality risk, respectively.

Even short bouts of exercise can reduce the risk of mortality. A study published in 2023 in JAMA Oncology found that small bouts of vigorous intermittent physical activity were associated with a lower risk of cancer. Vigorous intermittent physical activity refers to brief and sporadic bouts of intense exercise in daily life, such as fast walking or stair climbing for about one to two minutes.

The study followed 22,398 participants with an average age of 62 who self-reported being inactive for an average of 6.7 years. The results revealed that compared to those who did not engage in vigorous intermittent physical activity, performing a minimum of 3.4 to 3.6 minutes of vigorous intermittent physical activity per day was associated with a 17% to 18% lower total incident cancer risk. Additionally, engaging in an average of 4.5 minutes of vigorous intermittent physical activity daily was associated with a 31% to 32% lower incidence of physical activity-related cancer.

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The researchers suggested that small doses of intermittent vigorous physical activity may rapidly improve cardiorespiratory health, offering a potential biological explanation for the study’s findings. For individuals unable or unmotivated to exercise regularly during leisure time, daily bouts of intermittent vigorous physical activity may be a promising preventive measure for cancer.

In terms of specific types of exercise, a 2017 study found that cycling and swimming reduced the risk of all-cause mortality by 15% and 28%, respectively. Additionally, participation in racket sports (including badminton, tennis, and squash) was associated with a 47% reduction in the risk of all-cause mortality.

Reducing Risk of Cardiovascular Disease Mortality

Regular exercise can also improve cardiovascular health. A 2019 study tracked 5,861 women with an average age of 78.5 and found that adding one hour of light physical exercise per day reduced the risk of heart disease by 22%. The researchers noted that light physical activity, often abundant in everyday life, is crucial in preventing coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease in older women.

The aforementioned 2017 study also indicated that compared to those who did not participate in each activity, engaging in racket sports, swimming, and aerobic exercise reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease mortality by 56%, 41%, and 36%, respectively.

Improving Symptoms of Depression

Exercise may be an effective alternative or complement to medication and psychotherapy for people with depression. In February, The BMJ published a meta-analysis that included 218 studies involving 14,170 participants. The review found that walking or jogging, yoga, and strength training were effective methods for treating depression, as they could reduce the severity of depressive symptoms, with the effectiveness proportional to the intensity of the exercise.

A systematic review found that exercise can improve depression, anxiety, and psychological distress across various adult populations, including the general population, individuals with diagnosed mental health disorders, and those with chronic diseases.

The study noted that the effectiveness of exercise in treating depression is 1.5 times higher than psychological counselling or primary drug therapy. Specifically, exercise interventions lasting 12 weeks or less were most effective in reducing symptoms of mental health disorders. As such, the researchers advocate for using exercise as a primary approach to improve depression.

Ben Singh, the study’s lead author and lead researcher at the University of South Australia, stated that the research found all types of physical activity and exercise to be beneficial for mental health, including aerobic exercises such as walking, yoga, resistance training, and Pilates. Additionally, higher-intensity exercise showed greater improvement in symptoms of depression and anxiety, although the effectiveness decreased with longer exercise durations.

The Importance of Exercise for Older People

Exercise raises your heart rate, builds muscle, and improves your overall physical and mental health in various ways. A Harvard Medical School article highlighted the importance of physical activity for older people, saying that exercise helps maintain healthy blood pressure, improves blood sugar levels, prevents harmful plaques from accumulating in arteries, reduces inflammation, strengthens bones, and enhances sleep quality.

Data from the World Health Organization (WHO) show that over one-quarter of adults worldwide do not engage in enough physical activity. Generally, adults are advised to participate in 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or at least 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise per week. For adults aged 65 and above, it is especially vital to participate in various sports activities for three or more days per week. These activities should be of moderate or higher intensity, emphasizing functional balance and strength training.

Many older adults are hesitant to engage in exercise because they are unfamiliar with effective and safe forms of physical activity, as well as the appropriate level of training. However, it is essential to note that any form of physical activity is better than being sedentary. While the goal is to participate in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week, starting with manageable activities and gradually increasing intensity can be beneficial. Daily activities such as climbing stairs, gardening, and even playing with grandchildren can be incorporated to help maintain activity levels.

For individuals with health issues such as diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, heart or lung disease, and neurological disorders, or those with poor balance or arthritis, it is advisable to consult your doctor before starting an exercise program.

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Top 4 Heart-Healthy Fruits Enhance Cardiovascular Protection

Fruit is fresh, delicious, and rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, promoting overall health. In this article, we will introduce four fruits—blueberries, cherries, mulberries, and raspberries—that possess anti-aging and heart-protective properties. These fruits reduce the risk of heart disease and offer various additional health benefits.


The nutritional value of blueberries is exceptionally high and contributes to the prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Research has found that blueberries exhibit anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, as well as benefits for vascular and glucoregulatory function (blood sugar regulation). Eating one-third of a cup of cup of blueberries daily can reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, Type 2 diabetes, and all-cause mortality.

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