(HealthDay News) — Recommendations set specific goals for weekly physical activity, but perhaps they shouldn’t be the primary message about exercise for inactive people, experts argue in two separate analyses published in The BMJ

Currently, targets call for 150 minutes of weekly exercise — or 30 minutes of physical activity at least 5 days a week — to reduce the risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease (CVD).

“Think of exercise or physical activity as a continuum where one wants to move up the scale a bit and be a little more active, as opposed to thinking a specific threshold must be reached before any benefits are realized,” Phillip Sparling, EdD, a professor in the School of Applied Physiology at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, told HealthDay

For people who are inactive or dealing with chronic health issues, a weekly goal of 150 minutes of exercise may seem unattainable. As a result, they may be discouraged from trying to work even a few minutes of physical activity into their day, Sparling said.

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Moreover, health benefits can be achieved by doing less than the recommended amount of physical activity, according to the second analysis’ author, Philipe de Souto Barreto, from the University Hospital of Toulouse in France. 

For example, his review of six studies found that, compared with doing nothing, walking 1 to 74 minutes weekly can reduce the risk for death from any cause by 19%.

Minor increases in physical activity may gradually lead to more intense exercise, noted Sparling. 

“Once a routine and mindset are established, adding more activity may be easier,” he said.


  1. Sparling BP et al. BMJ. 2015;doi:10.1136/bmj.h100.
  2. De Souto Barreto P. BMJ. 2015;doi:10.1136/bmj.h23.