Moving fast for three minutes a day can lead to a longer life
Rregular vigorous exercise is one of the best ways to improve your health and longevity, but most people don’t get enough. In the United States, less than A quarter adults meet federal physical activity guidelines for aerobic and muscle strengthening activities. However, new to research suggests doing three one-minute sessions bursts of intense physical activity every day can reduce your risk of death. An easy way to do it? Speed up the activities you do every day, like walking, climbing stairs, or doing chores.
In the studypublished on December 8 in natural medicine, researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia used a dataset from the United Kingdom to analyze the daily physical activity of more than 25,000 adults who said they did not exercise. In the data set, participants wore wrist-based activity monitors for seven days, and their health events and outcomes were then tracked for about seven years on average. Researchers found that people who only got one to two minutes of vigorous physical activity as part of daily activities — not dedicated exercise — about three or four times a day during the week they wore an activity tracker had a 38% to 40% lower risk of dying during the study period, compared to people who did not engage in as vigorous physical activity. This held true for deaths from any cause, including cancer. Getting this small amount of intense physical activity was linked to an even greater reduction in the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease: around 48%.
This suggests that intensifying daily activities in a vigorous way — using so much energy that you can’t speak comfortably — can have major health benefits, says Emmanuel Stamatakis, professor of physical activity and health at the population at the University of Sydney and lead author of the study. Globally, he says, there seems to be a limit to the number of people who can be persuaded to exercise regularly, but these data suggest there are simpler ways to improve health.
“We’re shifting the discussion to everyday life, to the activities that people do anyway,” Stamatakis says. “Only a small minority of the population exercises regularly in their leisure time. We need to provide more options for these people to derive some benefit from physical activity.
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The researchers also found that even people who exercised seemed to benefit from these short bursts of activity. When researchers looked at data from more than 62,000 people who did at least some exercise, getting short bursts of intense physical activity benefited them as much as it benefited non-exercises. Stamatakis says that in this study, the researchers didn’t look at the data for the fittest people separately, but he suspects anyone could benefit from short bursts, given that vigorous physical activity seems to be so beneficial.
Although this study is observational, it is consistent with other research that has shown that even short bursts of vigorous physical activity can improve health, including research on high intensity interval training. Stamatakis points to a small study published in 2017 showing that doing three 60-second bursts of vigorous exercise three times a week improved cardiovascular function in a few weeks.
Stamatakis says he hopes research like his will persuade experts writing physical activity guidelines in the future to consider encouraging people to think about how they can incorporate vigorous physical activity into their daily routines. Parking further from your destination and then walking briskly for a few minutes is one way to slip into a short burst of vigorous activity, he says; another is to take the stairs or garden vigorously. Since doing this research, Stamatakis says he’s been more conscientious about how often he gets vigorous exercise during the day, including walking briskly for a few minutes. “I completely gave up elevators,” he says.
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