Housework, gardening or ambling around the golf course are not enough to stay fit and people must work up sweat if they want to avoid an early death, a new study suggests.
Taking part in vigorous exercise for at least 45 minutes a week is essential for health and guidelines should be changed to help people realise they must work harder, say researchers.
The government’s Change4Life campaign advises people that housework, washing the car or taking the dog for a walk can be beneficial for health.
But unless those activities are combined with more intense work outs, they are unlikely to ward off illnesses like heart disease or diabetes.
Likewise gentle swimming, social tennis or household chores are not beneficial unless they are coupled with more strenuous exercise.
Researchers from James Cook University in Australia, studied more than 200,000 middle aged people for six years.
They discovered that those who did more than 45 minutes of vigorous physical exercise, which left them out of breath and sweaty, were 13 per cent less likely to have died of any cause during that period.
“The benefits of vigorous activity applied to men and women of all ages, and were independent of the total amount of time spent being active,” said lead author Dr Klaus Gebel from James Cook University’s Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention.
“The results indicate that whether or not you are obese, and whether or not you have heart disease or diabetes, if you can manage some vigorous activity it could offer significant benefits for longevity.”