An extra 20 minutes of daily exercise will help prevent hospital admissions

  • New research shows that just 20 minutes more exercise a day can reduce your risk of hospitalization in the future.
  • Researchers saw this association with nine health problems.
  • Experts give tips on how to become more active.

We all know that exercise is important for your overall health – its benefits go beyond the physical, in fact it is essential to your mental well-being. Now, a new study shows that adding 20 more minutes of exercise to your day may reduce your chance of future hospitalization for a serious medical condition.

The study, published in JAMA network opened, used data from 81,717 UK Biobank participants aged 42 to 78. Participants wore an accelerometer, of sorts fitness tracker, for one week (between June 1, 2013 and December 23, 2015) and researchers followed them up for 7 years. Those participants with a medical history of a condition were excluded from the analysis specific to that condition, so a person who already had gallbladder disease was excluded from the analysis for that specific condition.

Time spent in sedentary activity (such as driving or watching television), light physical activity (such as cooking or self-care), moderate to vigorous physical activity (such as walking the dog or jogging), and sleep were estimated using wearable cameras and time use diaries among 152 persons in normal living conditions.

After assessing the participants’ activity levels, researchers used a modeling technique to substitute sedentary behavior for 20 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity. They found that adding just 20 minutes of physical activity would significantly reduce the number of possible hospitalizations in the future.

Driving the researchers’ point further home, higher levels of physical activity were associated with lower risks of hospitalization for the following nine conditions: gallbladder disease, urinary tract infections, diabetes (both type 1 and type 2), venous thromboembolism, pneumoniaischemic heart attack, iron deficiency Anemia, diverticular diseaseand colon polyps. Increasing physical activity by just 20 minutes a day was linked to a reduction in hospital admissions, ranging from 3.8% for colon polyps to 23% for diabetes.

Overall, these findings suggest that increasing physical activity by just 20 minutes per day may effectively reduce the risk of hospitalization for a wide variety of medical conditions.

Why would exercise help lower the risk of hospitalization?

Exercise and increased exercise can improve overall ability to adapt to stressors and reduce frailty, Dr. Johannes says. “It can also reduce the risk of comorbidities such as ischemic heart disease (coronary artery disease), diabetes and deconditioning, which can complicate an illness.” Reducing the risk of comorbidities can mean that a medical problem, such as a urinary tract infection or pneumonia, can be less serious and, in turn, more treatable outside the hospital, avoiding hospitalization, he explains.

Given that exercise has been linked to a lower risk of ischemic heart disease, it’s not surprising that exercise and physical activity are associated with a lower risk of stroke hospitalization, which itself is often associated with heart disease, says Dr. John. Exercise can often also improve diabetes management by increasing muscle sensitivity to insulin, so it’s not surprising that it’s associated with a lower risk of hospitalization due to diabetes complications, he adds.

Dr. However, Johannes explains that it’s important to keep in mind that some people who are prone to hospitalization due to these certain conditions may have underlying issues that prevent them from being as active, meaning their lack of physical activity is a result of their medical condition rather than the other way around.

How can you increase your physical activity?

This study includes to walk as moderate to vigorous exercise, so I think this is a great starting point, says Jimmy John, physician, pulmonologist and critical care medicine specialist at MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center. “I generally recommend starting with 10-15 minutes of walking a day, two to three days a week and gradually increasing the time, intensity and days per week.” For those who find it difficult to fit exercise into their daily routine, tracking steps with an activity tracker (such as on a smartphone or watch) can motivate people to stay active by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, for example . adds.

“I recommend taking at least 5,000 steps per day and ideally 7,500 steps or more per day. But in general, something is better than nothing,” says Dr. John.

it comes down to

Exercise can improve strength, balance, energy, mood, cognition and self-esteem, says Dr. John. Regarding the findings of this new study, “I think this is more supportive evidence that increased physical activity is associated with better health outcomes. This study provides additional insights into the link between physical activity and a lower risk of hospitalization for several conditions not typically associated with physical fitness, such as urinary tract infections, gallbladder disease and pneumonia,” he explains.

It is known that at least 150-300 minutes per week leads to a 30-40% reduction in mortality, says Meagan Wasfy, MD, MPH, sports cardiologist of Mass General Brigham. “Exercise can help with risk factors such as blood pressure, blood cholesterol, weight management and type 2 diabetes.”

Ultimately, higher levels of physical activity are linked to better long-term health outcomes and a reduced risk of hospitalizations for a slew of conditions across the board, Dr. Wasfy says.

Main photo of Madeleine Haase

madeleine, Prevention‘s assistant editor, has a history of health writing through her experience as an editorial assistant at WebMD and through her personal research at the university. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in biopsychology, cognition and neuroscience – and she helps strategize for success throughout Prevention‘s social media platforms.

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