Getting enough exercise could reduce your risk of dying from some illnesses

Forty minutes of exercise four times a week could unlock a whole new lifetime of health benefits.

A new study done in part by doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was just recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, shows that a combination of aerobic exercise and strength training could lead to a 48% reduced risk of death by influenza and pneumonia.

“It’s hugely game changing,” said Dr. Julie Chen, an internal medicine doctor with Kaiser Permanente in Maryland, and who is board-certified in the health and lifestyle arena.

“This is a huge finding, which supports the idea that everyone should be doing aerobic exercise equivalent to at least 150 minutes per week,” she explained.

The study found that, “Relative to no aerobic activity, 10—149, 150—300, 301—600 and [more than 600 minutes per week] were associated with lower risk (by 21%, 41%, 50% and 41%). Relative to [less than 2 episodes per week] of muscle-strengthening activity, 2 episodes/week was associated with 47% lower risk.”

Dr. Chen said that sweet spot of 150 minutes per week could be broken down into 40-minute increments. She also said at least two days of strength training (whether that be weightlifting, body weight calisthenics exercises, etc.) is the ideal number.

Chen said there’s good news if you can’t quite meet the study’s target numbers: Fewer amounts of exercise could still reduce risks.

“You need to increase your heart rate to at least 100-110 beats per minute,” Chen said. “A lot of people wear Smartwatches nowadays to tell them exactly [what] their heart rate is.”

In light of this study, Chen said it’s more important than ever to get out and get active. But she also warned it might not always be best to perform your exercise outside.

“We are going to have some very hot days,” Chen said. “And we’ve also seen several Code Red or worse days with the wildfire smoke impacting air quality.”

She said on days where heat and/or air quality are a factor, working out at home or indoors at a gym is your best bet.

“With the technology we have nowadays, there’s no reason someone can’t still work up a sweat inside with air conditioning and air filtering on,” she said. “There are tons of online video programs you can follow to guide you through a fitness routine on your own.”

Editor’s Note: The headline of this story has been updated. An earlier version misstated the study’s findings. 

Matt Kaufax

If there's an off-the-beaten-path type of attraction, person, or phenomenon in the DC area that you think more people should know about, Matt is your guy. As the features reporter for WTOP, he's always on the hunt for stories that provide a unique local flavor—a slice of life if you will.

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