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A study of almost 5,000 older people found deaths declined as their physical activity levels increased. Just 10 minutes extra exercise a day reduced annual mortality rates by seven percent. Twenty minutes cut it by 13 percent and half an hour decreased it by 17 percent.

Exercise helps people lose weight ‑ lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers. It also protects against dementia by boosting blood flow to the brain.

The findings are based on Americans aged 40 to 85 who wore accelerometers on their waist for a week.

Dr Pedro Saint-Maurice, of the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, said: “Adding 10 minutes per day of physical activity prevented an estimated 111,174 deaths per year.

Greater benefits were associated with the addition of more physical activity.”

The number almost doubled to 209,459 for 20 minutes and nearly tripled to 367,037 for 30 minutes.

Similar results were observed for men and women ‑ including those of all ethnic backgrounds.

For most healthy adults, doctors recommend at least 150 minutes of activity or 75 minutes of moderate or vigorous aerobic activity a week.

The study, which was published in JAMA Internal Medicine, also factored in that some people would not be able to boost activity levels.

Dr Saint-Maurice said: “These findings support implementing strategies to improve physical activity for adults and potentially reduce deaths.”

Meanwhile NHS patients are to be “prescribed” cycling and walking by their doctors who link them to walking groups and cycle loan schemes.

Mayor Dan Norris has secured £170,000 to enable trial projects in Bath, North East Somerset and Bristol.

The plan is to tackle obesity, poor health, inactivity and loneliness – problems exacerbated by the pandemic.

Mr Norris said: “Going for a walk or getting on your bike are good for both your physical and mental health so this could be just what the doctor ordered. This plan will help make people healthier and happier.”

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