Posted on Jul 27, 2023, 6 p.m.
Those who don’t like to play sports or go to the gym may be interested in this study which suggests that just 3-4 minute bursts of vigorous physical activity during your daily tasks are associated with significant reductions in the risk of premature death, in particular from cardiovascular disease.
The study led by the University of Sydney is the first to accurately measure the benefits of vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity (VILPA), and the findings have been published in Nature Medicine. VILPA is short bouts of vigorous activity that we do every day like running to catch the bus, chasing after the dog, walking while doing errands, or playing high-energy games with the children.
“It 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,” says Prof. Emmanuel Stamtkakis.
“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. “A few very short bouts totalling three to four minutes a day could go a long way, and there are many daily activities that can be tweaked to raise your heart rate for a minute or so.”
Adults aged 40+ for the most part typically do not take part in sports or regular exercise, but this study reveals how incidental physical activity can help to overcome those barriers. According to the researchers 3-4 minutes of VILPA every day is associated with up to a 40% reduction in all-cause and cancer-related mortality, as well as up to a 49% reduction in cardiovascular disease-related death.
“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,” said Stamatakis. “It’s quite remarkable to see that upping the intensity of daily tasks for as little as four to five minutes a day, done in short bursts of around one minute each, is linked to an overall reduction in cancer risk by up to 18 percent, and up to 32 percent for cancer types linked to physical activity.”
The study involved 22,398 non-exercising and non-sports-playing participants with an average age of 62 years old who were enrolled in the UKBiobank and were followed over seven years to access health data. Findings showed that 89% of the participants did some form of VILPA, among those who did 93% of all VILPA bouts lasted up to one minute, on average participants engaged in 8 bouts of VILPA tallying 6 minutes a day lasting on average 45 seconds each.
The greatest gains were seen when comparing 4-5 daily bouts to those with none, and larger benefits were seen with larger VILPA amounts, suggesting the more the better. Compared to doing no VILPA, 11 bouts of VILPA per day was associated with a 65% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular-related death and a 49% reduction in cancer-related death.
A comparative analysis of the vigorous activity of 62,000 people who exercised regularly had comparable results, implying that vigorous activity done as either part of an exercise or as part of housework does not compromise the health benefits.
"These findings demonstrate just how valuable detailed and objective measures of physical activity can be when collected on a large-scale population. We are incredibly grateful to all of the 100,000 UK Biobank participants who wore an activity monitor for 7 days to generate these valuable data," said Professor Naomi Allen, Chief Scientist of UK Biobank.
“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.”
“We are just starting to glimpse the potential of wearable technology to track physical activity and understand how unexplored aspects of our lives affect our long-term health – the potential impact on cancer prevention and a host of other health outcomes is enormous,” said Professor Stamatakis.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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