WASHINGTON, April 5 (UPI) -- Researchers in Canada say recommendations for people to get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week to maintain health are overblown, suggesting in a study the level of physical activity needed for health benefits could be lower for many people.
The "move more and sit less" proposal by researchers at the University of British Columbia lines up with recent research showing exercise lowers risk for a plethora of health conditions, but butts up against longstanding international recommendations.
The World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention both recommend adults between the ages of 18 and 64 get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity or some combination of both per week.
While research has shown exercise can reduce the risk for more than 25 chronic medical conditions, the amount of exercise one needs is still being debated -- with authors of the latest study claiming the requirement for 150 minutes per week was misunderstood as a minimum.
"The preponderance of evidence simply does not support this contention," Dr. Darren Warburton and Dr. Shannon Bredin, researchers at the University of British Columbia write in the study, published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology. "There is compelling evidence that health benefits can be accrued at a lower volume and/or intensity of physical activity. These health benefits are seen in both healthy and clinical populations."
In the review of research, Warburton and Bredin say health benefits from exercise can be seen in levels activity far below 150 minutes per week. Instead of pushing a hard minimum, they say more attention should be paid to increasing the amount of exercise people get overall by removing barriers to participation, promoting exercise as healthy and highlighting the health risks of living a more sedentary lifestyle.
While a study last year showed too much television and not enough activity is bad for health, Dr. James Stone, a researcher at the University of Calgary, writes in an editorial published alongside the study that recent studies Warburton and Bretin base their study on are too recent and "may be less rigorously researched than the scientific evidence used to produce clinical practical guidelines."
Stone agrees that newer research needs to be incorporated more quickly into recommendations and guidelines for health, but points out that for every study showing short walks can counteract the negative effects of sitting all day, there are two showing increasing exercise won't counteract all the sitting or that sitting all day may not increase the risk of death anyway.
"The message that some physical activity is better than none needs to be researched and validated so it can be incorporated into clinical practice guidelines," Stone writes. "So, are current guidelines running blind? Clearly, the correct historical answer is an emphatic no. But with rapidly emerging evidence, we need to expeditiously change all clinical practice guidelines when the facts change."