Latest news: 10 March 2016.

Moderate physical activity is great and adding some vigorous activity is even better for avoiding an early death, a large Australian study of middle-aged and older adults has found.

The public health message about the benefits of working up a sweat is being spread worldwide through a study and TEDx talk by James Cook University’s Dr Klaus Gebel, in which he outlines findings from research that drew on data from the Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study.

Dr Gebel, a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention at James Cook University in Cairns, explains that the researchers followed 204,542 people in NSW and the ACT enrolled in the 45 and Up Study for more than six years, and compared different volumes of overall activity.

Those who achieved the recommended 150 minutes of moderate activity per week reduced their risk for an early death by 47% compared to those that were completely inactive, the findings showed. And even those that did less than 150 minutes had a risk reduction of 34%, suggesting even a little bit of moderate activity is a lot better than none.

The more novel finding of the study was that, independent of the activity energy expenditure, there were further risk reductions for those who also did some vigorous activity.

When compared with the group of participants who only did moderate activity, mortality rates were 9% lower among those who said they did some vigorous activity, but that it made up less than 30% of their total activity.  In the group who reported that more than 30% or their activity energy expenditure was vigorous, mortality rates were 13% lower than in the group who did no vigorous activity.

“The results indicate that whether or not you are obese, and whether or not you have heart disease or diabetes, if you can manage some vigorous activity on top of moderate activity it could offer additional significant benefits for longevity,” said Dr Gebel.

Dr Gebel commenced the study at the University of Sydney, and completed it in collaboration with a team of University of Sydney researchers. Their paper, ‘Effect of Moderate to Vigorous Physical Activity on All-Cause Mortality in Middle-aged and Older Australians’, was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

His TEDx talk given at James Cook University was recently posted online.