Thirty minutes of exercise is the secret to living longer

A brisk walk, a workout in the gym or tackling the household chores all have the same positive effect, scientists have said.

The life-lengthening effects of brisk activity are confirmed in a new study of 130,000 people which found the more exercise they did, the lower their risk of heading for an early grave.

It found short, regular bouts of exercise, in whatever form, has the potential to prevent one-in-twelve deaths.

Dr Scott Lear, of Simon Fraser Universiy in Canada, who carried out the study, said: “Meeting physical activity guidelines by walking for as little as 30 minutes most days of the week has a substantial benefit and higher physical activity is associated with even lower risks.

“Physical activity represents a low-cost approach to preventing cardiovascular disease and our study provides robust evidence to support public health interventions to increase all forms.”

The findings of the global study were last night welcomed by British experts who declared exercise more powerful than any pill or medicine.

It comes a month after Public Health England revealed physical inactivity among adults now contributes to one in six deaths in the UK and costs the NHS more than £900million a year.

The Canadian study says achieving this modest figure would slash deaths by eight per cent and cardiovascular illness by almost five per cent, or one in 20 cases.

Scientists tracked participants aged between 35 and 70 from 17 countries between 2003 and 2010.

They provided information on lifestyle, medical history, weight, height and blood pressure.

They also completed a questionnaire on the types of physical activity they undertook in a typical week.

Results showed 3.8 per cent developed cardiovascular disease, compared to 5.1 per cent of people who did not.

Risk of death was also higher for people who did not meet the recommended amount of activity – 6.4 per cent compared to 4.2 per cent.

Overall, almost a fifth of people in the study failed to manage this but almost half or 44 per cent were highly active.

The study, published in The Lancet, found there was no ceiling on the benefit of exercise and no risks associated with extremely high levels, considered to be more than 2,500 minutes a week.

John Martin, professor of cardiovascular medicine at University College London, said: “Walking is easy and cheap. This study should encourage governments to rebalance health budgets away from high tech treatment of heart disease to promoting simple strategies of prevention like walking.”