A few minutes of vigorous activity several times a day can reduce the risk of death

A few minutes of vigorous activity several times a day can reduce the risk of death

A little effort can go a long way to improving health, according to a new study.

The research, published Thursday in the journal Nature Medicine, suggests that short bursts of intense movement — the kind that leave you huffing and puffing — are associated with a lower risk of premature death.

For the study, researchers from the University of Sydney analyzed a collection of data from around 25,000 people in the UK who wore wrist-mounted devices that tracked their movements.

The researchers looked at physiological data recorded by the wrist trackers over a period of one week. They chose participants who said they did not exercise or play sports and who took one or fewer recreational walks per week.

But 89% of those people, according to the analysis, still exercised through everyday activities like climbing stairs, running to the bus or carrying heavy groceries. The researchers defined this type of heart rate-increasing movement as “vigorous activity.”

According to the results, one to two minutes of such activity three to four times a day was associated with an up to 40% lower risk of death over a seven-year period, compared to people who did no vigorous activity. The risk of dying from heart disease was further reduced: up to 49%.

The average age of the participants was 62, so the researchers assumed that their activity levels during the week studied were representative of their general lifestyle.

“Because adults have formed habits, their lifestyle is quite crystallized. It’s reasonably constant over time,” said Emmanuel Stamatakis, the study’s lead author and professor of physical activity and population health. at the University of Sydney.

The study also looked at a group of 62,000 people who exercised regularly and had intermittent bursts of vigorous activity in their daily lives, and also found a lower risk of death compared to people who didn’t. engaged in any vigorous activity.

“We recoup a lot for our time invested in vigorous physical activity because it could have potentially very profound effects on our health,” Stamatakis said. “Our study confirms that this is the case even when it is not vigorous exercise-based activity, even when it is part of our daily activities – while working, running errands, while we move.”

Loretta DiPietro, a professor of exercise and nutritional science at George Washington University, said the new research is “the best evidence I’ve seen so far” that short bursts of movement have strong health benefits.

“For years everyone assumed that the health benefits of physical activity required at least 10 minutes,” she said. But now, “we are seeing benefits at shorter and shorter durations.”

But to be considered vigorous activity, according to Dr. John Schuna Jr., an associate professor of kinesiology at Oregon State University, the movement must elevate a person’s breathing and heart rate, and possibly cause them to sweat. (although sweating may not occur after just one minute).

“A lot of times the vigor is at that level where you can’t hold a conversation,” he said.

Previous research from the University of Sydney has also found that vigorous physical activity is associated with lower rates of heart disease. Another paper Stamatakis worked on suggested that 15 minutes of vigorous movement per week – whether from exercise or daily activities – was associated with a 16% lower risk of death, while 20 minutes was associated with a 40% lower risk of death from heart disease. particular.

A 2019 study also determined that climbing stairs was associated with a lower risk of death in older men.

According to current US guidelines, adults need 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week, such as brisk walking, cycling or playing tennis. The guidelines also suggest doing strength training two or more days a week.

But Schuna said researchers often debate whether to lower that time recommendation. The new research represents “the kinds of studies we need to make those leaps in the future,” he said.

DiPietro pointed out that people need to be consistently active on a daily basis to see the health benefits of short bursts of movement.

“You can’t just walk up a few stairs a day and then wait a few days and start again,” she said.

But hitting the gym isn’t the only way to get beneficial moves, she added.

“There are so many ways to fit physical activity into a normal lifestyle,” DiPietro said. “If you’re doing housework, put on some music and do it to music. The body doesn’t care if you move to the gym or vacuum the inside of your house.”

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