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How to Boost Your Lifespan in 15 Minutes a Day

Learn how exercising in small doses every day can help you live longer

Enews Sept2011 Mom & Daughter Yoga 260×180

Decades of clinical research have established a long list of benefits for regular, moderate exercise. Now, new research offers up a groundbreaking reason to break out the sneakers or dust off the yoga mat.

Even if you can’t manage to dedicate a full hour to daily physical activity, it turns out that just 15 minutes may be enough to reduce the risk of dying prematurely. A Taiwanese study published in the British medical journal The Lancet followed more than 400,000 adults age 20 or older, tracking their self-reported health and exercise habits over an average of eight years, and participants who reported short periods of daily exercise saw a 14 percent reduction in death (from any cause) and were 10 percent less likely than their sedentary peers to die of cancer.

These life-extending benefits applied across the board, in all age groups and both sexes, including those at risk for heart problems. The study concluded that people who were moderately active for just 92 minutes a week – 15 minutes, 6 days per week, with one day off for rest – extended their lifespan by an average of three years, compared to the group that reported little or no exercise. That is significantly less than the 150-minute minimum suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization.

“Moderate” exercise is physical activity that raises the heart rate and breathing, but still allows for easy conversation.

Get going

“This study is great news for busy people with hectic schedules who still want to do something healthy,” says Tim Goldberg, a physical therapist at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas. “In the workplace, breaks are 20 minutes long. Just investing that time in a brisk walk around the building is enough to make a real difference.”

Other possibilities for a daily fitness boost include:

Ride a bike
No strenuous uphills necessary: a gentle, flat route around the neighborhood or along the beach is just fine.

Get in the pool
Jump in, cool off, and do some water aerobics or swim a few laps.

Do pushups or crunches
Try these classic calisthenics during the nightly news or as you watch the morning show before work.

Pull the curtains, crank up the music, and get footloose to a few of your favorite tunes.

Stretch actively or do gentle yoga
You don’t need to do vigorous sun salutations in a hot room; just about any kind of mindful motion will work.

Work in the yard
A few minutes per day of planting, feeding, watering and weeding can improve both your landscaping and your health.

“Whatever form of activity you choose, make it something you really enjoy, or you won’t do it for long ," says Goldberg. "See if you can enlist a friend or partner to help stay on track, or you might even get the whole family involved. Find the best time of the day for you, whether that’s first thing in the morning, at lunchtime, or at the end of the day. And start with a minimum two-week commitment. Make sure you do something every day.”

Take action