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The right dose of physical activity

Ten thousand steps and more. The case is heard, physical activity (PA) is the best medicine for the prevention and treatment of many diseases. But in what form and at what dose precisely? Over the myriads of studies, the methods are refined, adapted in particular according to age, the existence of functional limitations. An American work, published this summer in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BSJM), emphasizes in particular the interest of combining endurance and muscle building to maximize the benefits.

Cardiorespiratory endurance activities are, by far, the most highlighted in public health policies, and the best known to the public. The World Health Organization (WHO) thus recommends, for adults, moderate-intensity endurance activity for at least 150 to 300 minutes per week, or 75 to 150 minutes per week if the intensity is sustained ( to the point of being too breathless to speak), or an equivalent combination of the two. The French recommendations are of the same order: thirty minutes of moderate to high intensity activity, at least five days a week. Although mentioned in the recommendations, muscle strengthening activities are often relegated to the background, or even forgotten.

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Economist Arden Pope (Brigham Young University, Utah) and his colleagues, who sign the article in the bjsm, studied the dose-response curve on the overall mortality of aerobic endurance and muscle-strengthening activities, in a cohort of more than 400,000 American adults, the National Health Interview Survey. Sub-groups, divided into increasing slices of practice time, were compared to a reference group, made up of participants declaring an almost zero PA: less than thirty minutes per week of moderate or vigorous activity, and no reinforcement muscular.

Cycling, swimming, walking with sticks…

A substantial reduction in the risk of overall mortality (–15%) is observed from one hour of endurance per week, and stabilizes at –27% for three hours per week. The combination with one session per week of muscle strengthening is associated with an additional reduction in the risk of mortality of 11%, a benefit which seems to disappear with high frequency. According to the authors, the optimal dose of PA for adults would therefore be three hours of weekly endurance, “at the level of intensity that suits the person”with one to two sessions per week to strengthen the main muscle groups.

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