The health benefits of leisure-time physical activity are well known, but whether less exercise than the recommended 150 min a week can have life expectancy benefits is unclear. We assessed the health benefits of a range of volumes of physical activity in a Taiwanese population. In this prospective cohort study, 416 175 individuals (199 265 men and 216 910 women) participated in a standard medical screening programme in Taiwan between 1996 and 2008, with an average follow-up of 8·05 years (SD 4·21). On the basis of the amount of weekly exercise indicated in a self-administered questionnaire, participants were placed into one of five categories of exercise volumes: inactive, or low, medium, high, or very high activity. We calculated hazard ratios (HR) for mortality risks for every group compared with the inactive group, and calculated life expectancy for every group. Compared with individuals in the inactive group, those in the low-volume activity group, who exercised for an average of 92 min per week (95 CI 71-112) or 15 min a day (SD 1·8), had a 14 reduced risk of all-cause mortality (0·86, 0·81-0·91), and had a 3 year longer life expectancy. Every additional 15 min of daily exercise beyond the minimum amount of 15 min a day further reduced all-cause mortality by 4 (95 CI 2·5-7·0) and all-cancer mortality by 1 (0·3-4·5). These benefits were applicable to all age groups and both sexes, and to those with cardiovascular disease risks. Individuals who were inactive had a 17 (HR 1·17, 95 CI 1·10-1·24) increased risk of mortality compared with individuals in the low-volume group. 15 min a day or 90 min a week of moderate-intensity exercise might be of benefit, even for individuals at risk of cardiovascular disease. Taiwan Department of Health Clinical Trial and Research Center of Excellence and National Health Research Institutes.
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