Exercising regularly over the age of 40 not only keeps you fit, but also reduces your chance of being hospitalized for an illness, according to a major new UK-US study.

The researchers, led by Dr. Eleanor Watts of the US National Cancer Institute, who made the relevant publication in the American medical journal “JAMA Network Open”, analyzed data on 81,717 adults aged 42 to 78. Time spent exercising was associated with the risk of hospitalization for pneumonia, stroke, diabetes complications, thrombosis, iron deficiency anemia, bowel polyps, serious UTIs, and other conditions.

It found that just 20 minutes of daily exercise reduced – depending on the health problem – the risk of being admitted to hospital from 4% (in the case of bowel polyps) to 23% (in the case of diabetes complications) over the next seven years. There was also a significant reduction in the risk of hospitalization for urinary tract infections and gallbladder disease.

“Studies show that physical activity can improve immune system, lung and heart function, as well as reduce inflammation,” said Dr. Watts.

Experts recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise. The main message of the new study is that “almost any activity is better than inactivity.”