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Staying Sufficiently Active Could Potentially Reduce the Risk of Death from Flu and Pneumonia

May 22, 2023

It's time to add one more to your list of reasons to get fit: being physically active can help reduce the risk of death from influenza and pneumonia.


Published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the study found that individuals who met the guidelines for aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercise had a 48% lower risk of dying from these illnesses. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity and two or more days of moderate muscle-strengthening activity each week. Survey data from over 570,000 people in the US National Health Interview Survey from 1998 to 2018 were used, and respondents were divided into groups based on how well they met the recommended amount of exercise. During the average monitoring period of nine years, 1,516 people died from influenza or pneumonia.


The study revealed that meeting both the aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercise recommendations decreased the risk of death associated with these illnesses by nearly half. Meeting only the aerobic exercise goal reduced the risk by 36%. Given that influenza and pneumonia are leading causes of death globally, these findings are significant.


Not enough is better than nothing


The study demonstrated that engaging in physical activity, even if it falls short of the recommended amount, is still beneficial in reducing the risk of death from influenza and pneumonia when compared to being inactive. Specifically, participating in 10 to 149 minutes of aerobic exercise per week was found to reduce the risk of death from these illnesses by 21%.


Dr. Kate W. M. Weber, the lead author of the study, emphasized the importance of physical activity for individuals of all ages and fitness levels, stating that "our number one recommendation for everyone is to move more and sit less."


Exercise more


Aerobic exercise, the study says, doesn't mean you have to go to the gym regularly. This type of exercise is anything that gets your heart rate and sweat glands moving, including race walking, swimming, biking, running or climbing stairs.


The study adds that exercises such as weight lifting, squats, lunges and even heavy gardening can all count as muscle-building activities.

The best exercise programs include planning workout times, receiving reminders, offering rewards and encouraging missing more than one planned workout in a row.


Exercising for ten minutes a day is much easier than people think. Think about how fast ten minutes go by when you're aimlessly swiping through social media or watching your favorite TV show. It's not a big investment of time, but it can have big health benefits.