In the rush of our busy lives, it can be hard to find time to exercise. Luckily, you don’t have to invest too much time to reap nationwide rewards. A new study shows that if every US adult over 40 walked just an additional 10 minutes each day, we would collectively prevent 110,000 deaths in the country each year.
The researchers used data from a study that ran from 2003 to 2006, where scientists tracked participants’ physical activity for a week. Researchers then tracked death rates through 2015 in a mortality follow-up and analyzed the data against trends, in minutes, for how long participants were physically active. They found that 10 extra minutes of exercise per day, in addition to normal daily activity, was associated with an 8 percent decrease of total deaths among men, and a 6 percent decrease of total deaths among women. The paper was published on Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.
Many academic papers show individuals can reap health benefits by adding more exercise to their daily regimen. This paper is a little different since “it doesn’t focus on the benefits for individuals, but rather at the level of the population,” Pedro Saint-Maurice, the study’s first author and an epidemiologist at the National Cancer Institute, told CNN. “We can make our nation healthier by encouraging everyone to add an additional 10 minutes of activity or more each day.”
Though the message is not novel—we all know that exercise is good for you—inactivity still contributes to a significant portion of deaths in the US. A 2019 study from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that more than 8 percent of deaths are “attributed to inadequate levels of physical activity,” a statistically significant culprit for adults aged 40 and older.
[Related: How much exercise do I need to stay healthy?]
Luckily, a quick workout doesn’t need to be grueling or tedious. Ten minutes of physical activity could be anything from walking to bodyweight exercises, pilates, or some simple dynamic stretching.
“Fitting in 10 minutes of exercise every day is so much easier than people think. Consider how fast 10 minutes goes by when you’re mindlessly scrolling social media or watching your favorite TV show,” CNN fitness contributor and mind-body coach Dana Santas told CNN. Take three or four songs to find movements you like—the key is finding a sequence of movements that will moderately work your full body, he added.
It’s important to note the new paper did not involve any experimentation—there were no conditions or controls that could establish causation—so the study authors cannot say that being active for 10 minutes a day will increase your individual lifespan. But the idea of this study was to show that the health of the collective improves if the population as a whole is more physically active, lowering the statistical chances of death in adult populations.
“There is a message in this data for public health entities” about the importance of promoting physical activity to reduce premature deaths, Saint-Maurice told The New York Times, and the message applies equally to each of us.