Four Minutes of Activity Could Prolong Your Life

Since 1950, the number of sedentary jobs has increased by 83%, according to the American Heart Association. Researchers with the Mayo Clinic found that those that sit for long periods can suffer from obesity, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and unhealthy cholesterol levels. Researchers also believe that prolonged periods of sitting increase the risk of death by cardiovascular disease and cancer.

But there is good news too. New research finds that three to four one-minute bursts of activity a day can reduce the risk of premature death, particularly from cardiovascular disease. This is called “vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity” or VILPA.

Published in Nature Medicine today, the study found that these bursts of activity can reduce cancer-related deaths by up to 40% and saw a 49% reduction in cardiovascular deaths.

“Our study shows similar benefits to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can be achieved through increasing the intensity of incidental activities done as part of daily living, and the more the better,” said lead author Emmanuel Stamatakis, Professor of Physical Activity, Lifestyle and Population Health at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre.

“Upping the intensity of daily activities requires no time commitment, no preparation, no club memberships, no special skills. It simply involves stepping up the pace while walking or doing the housework with a bit more energy,” Stamatakis continued.

What did they discover about exercise as part of daily life?

  • About 89% of all participants did some VILPA.
  • Among those who did VILPA:
    • 93% of all VILPA bouts last up to 1 minute.
    • Participants did eight VILPA bouts of up to 1 minute daily, totaling about 6 minutes.
    • On average, each VILPA bout lasted around 45 seconds. 
  • The steepest gains compared those with four to five bouts per day to those with no VILPA.
  • However, they saw more benefits with more numerous VILPA amounts, suggesting the more, the better.  
  • The maximum of 11 bouts per day was associated with a 65% reduction in cardiovascular death risk and a 49% reduction in cancer-related death risk, compared to no VILPA. 

Interestingly, a comparative analysis of the vigorous activity of 62,000 people who regularly engaged in exercise found comparable results. This implies that vigorous activity as part of structured exercise or housework throughout the day has similar health benefits.

The studies are observational, meaning they cannot directly establish cause and effect. However, the researchers took rigorous statistical measures to minimize the possibility that differences in participants’ health status caused the results.

“Our previous knowledge about the health benefits of vigorous physical activity comes from questionnaire-based studies, but questionnaires cannot measure short bouts of any intensity,” said Professor Stamatakis.

“The ability of wearable technology to reveal “micropatterns” of physical activity, such as VILPA, holds huge potential for understanding the most feasible and time-efficient ways people can benefit from physical activity, no matter whether it is done for recreation or as part of daily living.”

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