If you've given up physical activity because you don't have the time or inclination to achieve recommended weekly exercise levels, strap on your walking shoes: A new study in JAMA Internal Medicine indicates that something's better than nothing in terms of increasing longevity. Scientists from the National Cancer Institute looked back at six studies and found individuals who followed the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines of 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise—or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity workouts—achieved "substantial" benefit, while those who doubled that baseline reaped "additional" benefit, Reuters reports. But researchers also made the significant find that those who exercised even a bit were 20% less likely to die than those who hunkered down on the couch with their remotes and did nothing.
Scientists looked at 661,137 men and women (ages 21 to 98) who provided their own reports on their physical activity levels; 116,686 deaths were reported among these subjects, per the study. Those who met the guidelines saw a 31% increase in longevity over their nonactive counterparts, while participants who did three to five times the recommended levels did 39% better than the sedentary, LiveScience reports. Interestingly, exercise beyond that didn't seem to confer further benefit, but it also didn't appear to be harmful: Researchers found no link between those who worked out up to 10 times or more than the guidelines and increased death rate. A University of Florida aging specialist writes in the study's accompanying editorial that "physicians who seek out the segment of the population that performs no leisure-time physical activity could receive the most payback in their patient's health" if they recommend even a small amount of exercise. (Even a lunchtime stroll may make you feel better.)