Brief bursts of activity provide health benefits for people who don’t exercise

Making daily activities more vigorous for a few minutes — such as briefly picking up the pace of a walk — could offer people who don’t exercise some of the health benefits enjoyed by athletes.

That’s according to a new study of around 25,000 adults who said they don’t exercise in their free time. Those who incorporated three bouts of intense activity of one to two minutes a day saw an almost 40% lower risk of death from any cause compared to those whose days did not include such activity. The risk of death from cancer also fell by almost 40% and the risk of death from cardiovascular disease fell by almost 50%, researchers report online on December 8 in natural medicine.

In a comparison with around 62,000 people who exercised regularly, including runners, gym goers and recreational cyclists, the reduction in mortality risk was similar.

“This study adds to other publications showing that even small amounts of activity are beneficial,” says Lisa Cadmus-Bertram, a physical activity epidemiologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who did not participated in the research. “So many people are intimidated by the feeling that they don’t have the time, money, motivation, transportation, etc. to go to a gym regularly or train for long periods of time,” she says. . “The message we can take away is that it’s absolutely worth doing what you can.”

Emmanuel Stamatakis, an epidemiologist at the University of Sydney, and his colleagues analyzed a subset of records from the UK Biobank, a biomedical database containing information on the health of half a million people in the UK United. Study participants who did not exercise, more than half of whom were women and were on average 62 years old, wore motion-tracking devices for a week.

Over an average of seven years of follow-up, for those whose days included three to four bursts of activity, the mortality rate was 4.2 all-cause deaths per 1,000 people for one year. For those without a burst of activity, it was 10.4 deaths per 1,000 people for a year.

The researchers were looking for bursts of vigorous activity that met a definition determined in a lab study, including reaching at least 77% of maximum heart rate and at least 64% of maximum oxygen consumption. In real life, the signs that someone has reached the necessary intensity level are “an increase in heart rate and a feeling of shortness of breath” within the first 15 to 30 seconds of an activity, Stamatakis says.

Regular daily activities provide several opportunities for those vigorous bursts, he says. “The easiest way is to maximize walking pace for a minute or two on a regular walk.” Other options, he says, are carrying bags of groceries to the car or taking the stairs. “The biggest gains in population health will be made by finding ways to get the least physically active people to move a little more.”

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