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The key to long life? Just 30 minutes more exercise a week adds a YEAR to life expectancy

  • New research announced by Vitality today has found people could boost their life expectancy by up to five years by incorporating extra exercise into their weekly routine
  • To help tackle the inactivity challenge in the UK, Vitality is calling on the nation to move 20% more
  • Former Olympian Lord Seb Coe will lead the charge in joining hundreds of runners at a bespoke parkrun event this weekend

On the back of new research highlighting the long term benefits of more physical activity, innovative health and life insurance company, Vitality, are encouraging everyone to get 20% more active this weekend (14 September).

Vitality has found people could increase their life expectancy by more than a year by adding an extra 30 minutes of exercise into their weekly routine. Analysing the activity levels of 141,000 people over a one-year period Vitality found those who increased their exercise levels from the recommended 2.5 hours a week, to three hours a week saw their life expectancy boosted by 1.7 years.

What’s more, the results show those who previously did very little exercise – less than 30 minutes a week – saw even greater improvements. Inactive people who incorporated 90 minutes of exercise to their week boosted their life expectancy by three years, while those who exercised for three hours a week added four years onto their life span. The best 10% of those that added at least 30 minutes of exercise increased their life expectancy by over 5 years on average

According to Public Health England [April 2016], physical inactivity accounts for nearly one in six deaths in the UK each year and is a major risk factor in the development of cardiovascular diseases, cancer and diabetes.

To help people think about how they could build more physical activity into their lives, this weekend Vitality and parkrun are asking parkrunners to commit to a 20% increase, whether that’s running to or from the event, cycling down to it, or something else that better suits their lifestyle. Those that can’t make their local parkrun are still be encouraged to seize the day and move 20% more in whatever way suits them – whether that’s walking to the shops, going on a bike ride or even just dancing around the home.

Front of the starting line is Vitality Ambassador, Sebastian Coe, who will join hundreds of runners at a bespoke parkrun event in London this weekend as they commit to being 20% more active by taking on an extra 1k in addition to the normal 5k event.

Seb Coe said: “My ambition for most of my life has been to help people get more physically active – whether that was through the legacy of the 2012 London Olympic Games or involvement in grassroots community projects.

“Many people don’t realise just how much of an impact exercise can have on their overall health and wellbeing - not just to improve longevity, but also on our mental wellbeing and even productivity. Adding 30 minutes exercise to your week can be easily broken down into a few minutes every day, so I hope the rest of the UK will join me this weekend and move 20% more.”

Nick Read, Vitality Programme Managing Director at Vitality added: “Fitting activity into our lives can be incredibly difficult, yet adding only an extra 20% a week can have a massive impact on our health. As the research shows, you don’t have to run a marathon to notice the benefits – simply going for a 30 minute walk can make a big difference to your life expectancy.

“NHS figures* shows more than one in three people in the UK are not active enough to be in good health, and if this trend continues the nation could be 35% less active than it was in the 1960s by 2030. We all need to come together and play a part in reversing this worrying trend. Our partnership with parkrun provides the perfect platform to bring this to life as its inclusive format is already galvanising local communities to get more active and feel part of a movement. If you can’t make it to your local parkrun, you can get involved by simply walking to the park, cycling with friends, or taking the stairs rather than the lift when out and about.”

Top tips for incorporating 30 minutes more exercise into your week.

  1. If you have a spare half an hour on your lunch break at work, you can quickly pull together a simple workout that can make a big difference. Bodyweight exercises like squats, press ups, lunges and mountain climbers can be done anytime and anywhere. Read one of our free 30 minute bodyweight workouts here.
  2. Walking is one of the easiest ways to incorporate more exercise into your week. Get off the train a stop earlier on your way to work, swap the board meeting for a walking meeting or try walking meditation and use a lunchtime walk as a chance to escape your desk, ditch your phone and spend some time just focusing on you.
  3. Head to the local park with your family, friends or colleagues for a friendly team sports tournament. Whether it’s football, ultimate frisbee, netball or rounders, pick a sport you all enjoy and the time will fly by.
  4. Get on your bike! Rather than take the car or public transport to work or at the weekends, saddle up and pedal to your destination instead.
  5. Look out for local fitness classes you can join. Keep your eye out for things you might not have done before, like salsa dancing, hot yoga or rock climbing, gather a few like-minded friends and challenge yourself to try something new.


Research methodology

The data outcomes are based on a study of 141,000 Vitality members who completed two Vitality Age assessments, a year apart, from August 2017 to 19 August 2019. Members report on the frequency, duration and intensity of their exercise, their other lifestyle choices including their diet, smoking habits and alcohol consumption, their mental wellbeing, and their measurements including their weight and blood pressure. We use this information to calculate their Vitality Ages. The difference between their Vitality Ages and their actual ages is a quantification of the impact of their lifestyle choices, mental wellbeing and their measurements on their life expectancy. When members do more exercise or improve any of these factors, their life expectancies increase and their Vitality Ages decrease correspondingly. The links between these factors and the mortality rates that enable the calculation of life expectancies are based on a meta-analysis conducted by our academic partners for the development of the Vitality Age algorithm.

Data source: Health Matters: getting every adult active everyday *July 2016