Exercising for six times the recommended weekly amount helps to prevent the risk of type 2 diabetes, experts claim.
Much higher levels of physical activity can also help to ward off cancer, stroke and heart disease, according to researchers at the University of Washington.
The World Health Organisation currently states people should conduct 600 metabolic equivalent minutes (MET) of physical activity a week. In reality, that is the equivalent of a brisk walk for two and a half hours or running for 75 minutes.
But researchers found the biggest health gains were made by people who exercised for between 3,000 and 4,000 MET minutes.
Researchers analysed 174 studies between 1980 and 2016 to find the effects levels of exercise had on strokes, heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
Individuals who are physically active for the recommended amount each week have a two per cent lower risk of diabetes compared to those who don’t take part in any exercise.
However, a six-fold increase in exercise – to 3,600 MET minutes – reduced the risk by an extra 19 per cent.
Lead researcher, Hmwe Kyu, told The Guardian: “Major gains occurred at lower levels of activity. The decrease in risk was minimal at levels higher than 3,000 to 4,000 MET minutes per week. A person can achieve 3,000 MET minutes per week by incorporating different types of physical activity into the daily routine.”
“For example, climbing stairs 10 minutes, vacuuming 15 minutes, gardening 20 minutes, running 20 minutes, and walking or cycling for transportation 25 minutes on a daily basis would together achieve about 3,000 MET minutes a week.”
Benedict Jephcote, Head of Education at Diabetes.co.uk, said: “This level of exercise is possible with the right dedication. Some people with type 2 diabetes, or at high risk of the condition, have made huge improvements to their health through significantly upping their daily exercise.
“Research has consistently shown that exercise has the most benefits when combined with a healthy diet.”
Because the meta-analysis – which was published in the BMJ on Tuesday – is based on observational research, it doesn’t explain why this happens.
The researchers wrote: “With population ageing, and an increasing number of cardiovascular and diabetes deaths since 1990, greater attention and investments in interventions to promote physical activity in the general public is required.
“More studies using the detailed quantification of total physical activity will help to find a more precise estimate for different levels of physical activity.”

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