Research released today suggests you may not need to go to the gym twice a day to get the health benefits of exercise – physical activity of any intensity could make a difference to life expectancy.

A new study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) has shown that spending more than nine and a half hours a day sitting (as opposed to standing or walking, for example) is associated with an increased risk of death.

While physical activity has long been known to increase life expectancy, this research looked at the differences in intensity. 

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It compared light activity, such as walking slowly or light tasks such as cooking dinner or washing dishes; moderate activity including brisk walking, vacuuming or mowing the lawn; and vigorous activity, like jogging, carrying heavy loads or digging.

Researchers followed 36,383 participants aged 40 and above for an average of 5.8 years. 

They found that any level of physical activity, regardless of intensity, was associated with a substantially lower risk of death.

The largest reduction in risk of death (about 60-70 per cent) was between the least active and most active participants.

Researchers suggest that the public health message might simply be “sit less and move more and more often”.

The research was led by Professor Ulf Ekelund at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences in Oslo, who specialises in physical activity epidemiology and has undertaken similar studies in the past.

Last year, officials warned that four in five people are at risk of early death from heart attack or stroke.

According to Public Health England, around 24,000 of deaths in England every year are in people under the age of 75, and 80 per cent of these are preventable, which is equivalent to around 50 per day.

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