Feb. 27, 2023 -- An extra 20 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise per day helps keep middle-aged and older people out of the hospital for serious medical conditions, a study published in JAMA Open Network says.

About 82,000 study participants in the United Kingdom between ages 42 and 78 wore fitness trackers called accelerometers for a week between June 1, 2013, and Dec.23, 2015. The researchers followed up over 7  years, finding that about 48,000 people in the study  ended up in the hospital for many different reasons. 

The researchers found that physically active people  had a lower risk for hospitalization, especially in nine conditions: gallbladder disease, urinary tract infections, diabetes (both type 1 and type 2), deep vein thrombosis, pneumonia, ischemic stroke, iron deficiency anemia, diverticular disease, and colon polyps.

The risk reduction for hospitalization ranged from 3.8% for colon polyps to 23% for diabetes, the study said.

“These findings suggest that increasing moderate to vigorous physical activity by 20 minutes per day may be a useful nonpharmaceutical intervention to reduce hospital admissions for many common health conditions, which could lower hospital burdens and improve quality of life,” the study concluded.

Lead researcher Eleanor Watts of the U.S. National Cancer Institute in Rockville, MD,  told Today the study has limitations. The study didn’t prove that exercise prevented the development of medical conditions, just that people weren’t hospitalized for them, she said. Also, almost all the participants were white. 

Overall, the study confirms other research that found a person’s health improves with physical activity – and that the exercise doesn’t have to be demanding or strenuous to provide a benefit.


Show Sources


JAMA Open Network: “Association of Accelerometer-Measured Physical Activity Level With Risks of Hospitalization for 25 Common Health Conditions in UK Adults.”

“Today": “An extra 20 minutes of physical activity a day may help prevent hospitalizations.”


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