The benefits of exercise have long been touted, with regular physical activity being known to improve physical fitness and overall health. A new study has found that exercise can also prevent hospitalization for various health conditions among middle-aged and older adults.
The study, published in JAMA Network Open, involved nearly 82,000 British adults between the ages of 42 and 78. These participants wore wrist monitors to record their physical activity levels. Researchers examined the relationship between activity levels and the participants' odds of being hospitalized for various health conditions.
After around seven years, more than 48,000 study participants ended up in the hospital for a variety of reasons. However, those who were more physically active had lower risks of being hospitalized for nine health conditions.
These health conditions included gallbladder disease, urinary tract infections (UTIs), blood clots, stroke, diabetes complications, pneumonia, iron-deficiency anemia, colon polyps, and diverticular disease.
The researchers estimate that adding just 20 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous cardio exercise to daily routines could reduce the risk of hospitalization for the nine conditions identified in the study by anywhere from 4% to 23%.
Moderate-intensity exercise includes activities such as brisk walking, biking on level ground, or yard work while running, biking on hills, or swimming laps count as vigorous-intensity exercise.
The study's lead researcher, Eleanor Watts, notes that the findings do not definitively prove that physical activity is responsible for the protective effect. She explains that people who are younger, healthier, or have higher incomes and more resources may be more likely to exercise and less likely to end up in the hospital.
However, after factoring in these differences, physical activity was still linked to a protective effect. It's known that exercise has many benefits that can help prevent hospitalizations, including improving immune function, lung and heart health, insulin sensitivity, and reducing inflammation. Exercise can also reduce body fat, high blood pressure, and cholesterol.
Dr. Chip Lavie, medical director of cardiac rehabilitation and prevention at John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute in New Orleans, notes that "almost any physical activity is better than inactivity." Even walking the dog can provide benefits, though a daily jog may bring bigger benefits.
Peter Katzmarzyk, a professor at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, notes that the study aligns with what's generally recommended to Americans to improve their health: getting at least 150 minutes of moderate cardio exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise each week.
The findings of this study are good news for people of all ages and fitness levels, as they suggest that even small amounts of physical activity can improve health and prevent hospitalization for various health conditions. The benefits of exercise can be achieved through a range of activities, from walking and biking to gardening and household chores.
It's never too late to start exercising, even for those who have been sedentary for years. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week, along with muscle-strengthening activities at least two days a week.
Regular exercise has long been associated with numerous physical and mental health benefits, from reducing the risk of chronic diseases to improving mood and cognitive function. This study adds to the growing body of evidence showing that exercise can also prevent hospitalization for various health conditions, providing even more motivation to make physical activity a regular part of daily life.