Exercise Intensity and Chronic Disease

Contributed by Dr. Damiam Rodriguez, DHSc, MS

Regular physical activity is one of the foundations of extended lifespan and increased quality of life as we age, but how much exercise do we really need and how far do we have to push ourselves? The World Health Organization (WHO) currently recommends at least 600 METs per week. METs, metabolic equivalent minutes, are a metric combining both time and exercise intensity (as determined by oxygen consumption) used to estimate overall energy expenditure. 600 METs is equivalent to approximately 150 minutes of brisk walking or 75 minutes of running. However, recent research suggests that lifelong optimum health may require significantly more, and higher intensity, exercise.

In collaboration with the Blue Mountains Eye Study (an Australian population-based study that has become one of the largest epidemiological studies in history), researchers developed a protocol to investigate how varying levels of physical activity directly impact lifespan and well-being. The protocol included collecting health data and interviewing over 1,500 seniors (aged 50 and above) over a 10-year period1. The only inclusion criteria, outside of age, was that participants could not have a current cancer diagnosis, coronary artery disease, or have had experienced a stroke. After baseline measurements, participants took part in an annual medical physical where data regarding current health and activity levels was collected.

In order to estimate regular activity levels, interviewers produced a weighted physical activity estimate using baseline data and the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ), a validated measurement tool comprised of questions regarding time spent in physically challenging activity, activity type, and perceived exertion. The IPAQ provided data not only on direct exercise, but also on levels of activity within daily life, e.g., home and yard work and physically active leisure time activities. As hypothesized, the results found that those who had the highest levels of total physical activity were the least likely to experience early mortality, be diagnosed with a chronic health condition, or experience mental health issues. The data showed that those who reached 5,000 MET minutes per week (over six times the current baseline recommendations from the WHO) experienced the greatest long-term health benefits, effectively increasing the chances of remaining free from chronic disease and fully functional later in life by nearly 100%. They also effectively increased life expectancy by nearly 10 years.

So what does 5,000 METs per week look like? Exercising alone, if you are an average size adult male and walking is your exercise of choice, optimal health may require 3 hours per day. If you prefer running, it would be 10.5 hours of moderately-paced (12-minute per mile) jogging on the treadmill per week. The key, researchers suggest, is not only integrating more overall activity into your daily life through more active leisure activities, but also increasing oxygen consumption through higher levels of intensity when exercising. Research is increasingly providing more evidence of the importance of weight-bearing activity as we age, and different strength training modalities are ideal for upping the exercise intensity levels. Other recent studies suggest that high-intensity interval training (HIIT), an exercise technique characterized by short bouts of maximum effort followed by short recovery periods, is superior to less rigorous types of exercise in delaying age-related changes at the cellular level2. To promote optimal health, you should be complementing your daily walks with a few weekly sessions of strength training, or intersperse bursts of HIIT with your conventional cardiovascular exercise.

Modern research continues to provide more evidence of the importance of following the principles of the dōTERRA Wellness Lifestyle Pyramid. An important component of a lifestyle that promotes healthy biological aging and an increased lifespan is how much and how intensely we exercise. Take two capsules of Mito2Max® Energy & Stamina Complex with a whole food breakfast and hit the gym or the running trail to improve your well-being one (metric) minute at a time. 



doTERRA Science blog articles are based on a variety of scientific sources. Many of the referenced studies are preliminary and further research is needed to gain greater understanding of the findings. Some articles offer multiple views on general health topics and are not the official position of doTERRA. Consult your healthcare provider before making changes to diet or exercise.

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