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Groundbreaking Harvard Study Finds With Certainty This 1 Exercise Can Help You Live Longer

Researchers are now more sure than ever you need to be doing this.

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BY Betsy Mikel - 07 Nov 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

What's the secret to living a long, healthy life? Scientists have been searching for definitive answers for decades.

Many of their findings circle back to the benefits of exercise. Researchers have uncovered evidence that certain types of exercise can keep your brain happy and healthy, sharpen your cognitive abilities and extend your life expectancy.

We've heard it all before. Generally doctors tell us at least 30 minutes of moderate activity five days a week, or 150 minutes in a full week. But is there any definitive proof that this can actually increase our life expectancy? Now there is.

Break a sweat to live longer

A just-released study conducted by researchers at the Harvard University School of Public Health reveals one type of exercise that drastically reduced the death rates of participants. It's moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, which researchers like to abbreviate as MVPA. In normal-people terms, that means getting your body moving at a gentle clip. Brisk walking, swimming and light biking are all considered forms of MVPA.

Of the 16,741 women who participated over the four-year study period, those who did moderate-to-vigorous physical activity had 60-70 percent lower mortality rates than those who had sedentary lifestyles. The study's authors published their results in the scientific journal Circulation.

Different methodology for more accurate results

OK, so exercising helps us live longer. We should all get up and move around more often. Haven't we heard this before? Yes, but that advice was based on not-entirely-accurate science.

The study's lead author I-Min Lee, who is a professor in Harvard's Department of Epidemiology, admits her team's findings might not seem groundbreaking. Numerous studies have reported similar findings. But here's why this one's different: Other studies have relied on self-reported results. People might misremember or not be totally honest when reporting how much or little they exercised. Not the most reliable way to gather data.

In this study, however, researchers employed a device called a triaxial accelerometer. Participants wore the accelerometer, which captured data about their physical activity. So researchers could know for certain how long participants were sedentary and for how long. This led to far more accurate data collection. The researchers not only found that the MVPA group lived longer than the sedentary participants. Thanks to their more accurate data, researchers discovered the reduction in mortality rates to be far more extreme than previously assumed.

Lead researcher Lee told Psychology Today this: "Based on these self-report studies, we know that physical activity is associated with a 20-30 percent reduction in mortality rates, comparing the most with the least active," she said. "Using device-measured physical activity in the present study, we observed a 60-70 percent risk reduction larger than previously estimated from self-report studies."

If that's not enough of a push to get out there and go for a brisk walk, I don't know what is.

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