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Study reveals impact 10 minutes of exercise can have on adults over 40

By Madeline Holcombe, CNN

Could you find 10 minutes in your day to increase your physical activity? It might be lifesaving, according to a new study.

More than 110,000 US deaths could be prevented each year if adults over 40 added 10 minutes of daily moderate to vigorous physical activity to their normal routines, according to the study published Monday in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

An increase of 20 or 30 minutes could lead to even more lives saved, the study noted.

“We know exercise is good for us. This study provides additional evidence of the benefits at the population level: if all adults in the United States (over age 40) were to exercise just a bit more each day, a large number of deaths could be prevented each year,” said Pedro Saint-Maurice, the study’s first author and an epidemiologist at the National Cancer Institute, via email.

The study used accelerator data the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey recorded from participants ages 6 and older between 2003 and 2006. Researchers then looked at the activity levels of nearly 5,000 participants ages 40 to 85 and tracked death rates through the end of 2015.

The method used to conduct the study was rigorous, said Peter Katzmarzyk, professor of pediatric obesity and associate executive director for population and public health sciences at Louisiana State University’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center.

Although the number of prevented deaths is an estimate, it “is a valid approach since it would be almost impossible to conduct an actual human trial to manipulate people’s activity levels and look at long term outcomes like deaths,” said Katzmarzyk, who was not involved in the study, in an email.

“We have reported previously that even a little bit of exercise can result in health benefits,” said Saint-Maurice. “This study doesn’t focus on the benefits for individuals, but rather at the level of the population. We can make our nation healthier by encouraging everyone to add an additional 10 minutes of activity or more each day.”

Important note: If you experience pain while exercising, stop immediately. Check with your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.

How to get your 10 more minutes

Daily exercise is not just for gym rats, said Dana Santas, a CNN fitness contributor and mind-body coach for professional athletes.

“Fitting in ten minutes of exercise every day is so much easier than people think. Consider how fast ten minutes goes by when you’re mindlessly scrolling social media or watching your favorite TV show,” Santas said in an email. “It’s not a big time investment, but it can deliver big health benefits.”

Walking outside or on a treadmill is one of the best and simplest ways to bring consistent physical activity into your life, Santas said.

Yoga, for those who are practiced at it and those less so, is another great option, with the added benefits of stress relief and the ease of online access to all levels of instruction, Santas said.

Another at-home activity with a low cost of entry: body weight exercises.

With no equipment, it is easy to get in four rounds of three-minute body weight exercises — and you get an extra two minutes of benefit.

The key is finding a sequence of movements that will moderately work your full body, balancing upper body strength, lower body strength and cardiovascular exercise, like 10 to 25 pushups, 25 to 40 squats and a minute of jogging in place, Santas said.

And when in doubt, you can always dance it out.

Turning on some of your favorite songs and moving alone in your kitchen or grabbing family and friends in the living room is exercise that feels more like a celebration. It takes only three or four songs to get you to your 10-minute goal, Santas said, but no one will blame you if you can’t stop there.

Exercise doesn’t have to be grueling to be effective, and bumping up your routine by just a little bit can have huge impacts, the experts said.

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Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the name of the journal in which the study was published.

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