The world has a fitness problem: In 2015, body weight was implicated in 7 percent of all deaths worldwide. That’s four million human lives.

But new, promising research throws new light on an old treatment: fitness. In The Lancet, a team of researchers followed 130,000 adults from 17 low-, middle- and high-income countries over the course of seven years. (This, Julia Belluz reports for Vox, makes it one of the largest studies of heart health ever done.) The researchers, led by Dr. Scott Lear at Simon Fraser University in Canada, found that 150 minutes a week of exercise reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and death. That’s a little over 20 minutes a day.

And it doesn’t have to be some fancy gym membership or trendy boutique fitness class. “I would dispel the notion of having to put out money to be active,” Lear told Vox. “Our findings indicate that non-recreational activity—work, housework, active transportation—is just as beneficial in reducing the risk for premature death and heart disease.”

It’s also a powerful reminder of how we should make it easy for ourselves to maintain healthy habits, and it builds on research suggesting that people who have active commutes live longer lives, with cyclists getting the most benefit.

Productivity nerds call it “reducing friction”: if you want to make yourself do something you might resist—like going on an early morning run—make it as easy as possible. Set out your running gear the night before and leave it by the door. Like Lear’s research shows, every minute counts.


  • DRAKE BAER is a deputy editor at Business Insider, where he leads a team of 20+ journalists in covering the shifting nature of organizations, wealth, and demographics in the United States. He has been a senior writer at New York Magazine, a contributing writer at Fast Company, and the director of content for a human resources consultancy. A speaker at the Aspen Ideas Festival and other conferences, he circumnavigated the globe before turning 25. Perception is his second book.