Health

Short bursts of vigorous activity associated with longer life

Short bursts of vigorous activity associated with longer life

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Two-minute bursts of vigorous activity totaling just 15 minutes per week are linked to increased longevity, according to new research.

Two-minute bursts of vigorous activity totaling 15 minutes per week are associated with a reduced risk of death.

Bouts of vigorous activity lasting two minutes each and totaling just 15 minutes per week are associated with a reduced risk of death. This is according to a new research published on October 27 in European Heart Journal, Journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).[1]

“The results show that accumulating vigorous activity in short bursts during the week can help us live longer,” said study author Dr. Matthew N. Ahmadi of the University of Sydney, Australia. “With lack of time being the most commonly reported barrier to regular physical activity, occasionally collecting small amounts throughout the day may be a particularly attractive option for busy people.”

Another study showed that for a given amount of physical activity, an increase in intensity was associated with a reduced likelihood of cardiovascular disease. This study was also published on October 27 in European Heart Journal.[2] “Our study shows that it is not only the amount of activity, but also the intensity that is important for cardiovascular health,” said study author Dr. Paddy C. Dempsey from the University of Leicester and the University of Cambridge, UK, and the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, Australia.

Both studies included adults aged 40 to 69 from UK Biobank, a large biomedical database and research resource. Participants wore activity trackers on their wrists for seven consecutive days. This is an objective way of measuring movement and is a particularly good way to measure sporadic activity of varying intensity throughout the day.

“Our study shows that it is not just the amount of activity, but also the intensity that is important for cardiovascular health.” — dr. Paddy C. Dempsey

The first study involved 71,893 adults without cardiovascular disease or cancer. Participants had a mean age of 62.5 years, and 56% were women. The researchers measured total weekly vigorous activity and the frequency of bouts lasting two minutes or less. Participants were followed for an average of 6.9 years. After excluding events that occurred in the first year, the researchers analyzed the association of volume and frequency of vigorous activity with death (from all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer) and incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

The risk of all five adverse outcomes decreased as the volume and frequency of vigorous activity increased, and benefits were seen even at small amounts. For example, participants who were not very active had a 4% risk of dying within five years. The risk was halved to 2% with less than 10 minutes of vigorous activity per week, and fell to 1% with 60 minutes or more.

Compared to just two minutes of vigorous activity per week, 15 minutes was associated with an 18% lower risk of death and a 15% lower likelihood of cardiovascular disease, while 12 minutes was associated with a 17% reduced risk of cancer. Further gains were seen with greater amounts of vigorous activity. For example, approximately 53 minutes per week was associated with a 36% lower risk of death from any cause.

In terms of frequency, accumulating short bouts (up to two minutes) of vigorous activity an average of four times a day was associated with a 27% lower risk of death. But health benefits were seen at even lower frequencies: 10 brief bouts per week were associated with a 16% and 17% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, respectively.

Another study included 88,412 adults without cardiovascular disease. The average age was 62 years, and 58% were women. The researchers assessed the volume and intensity of physical activity and then analyzed their association with incident cardiovascular disease (ischemic heart disease or cerebrovascular disease). The participants were followed for an average of 6.8 years.

The researchers found that both higher amounts and higher intensity were associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease. An increase in intensity led to a greater reduction in cardiovascular disease for the same amount of exercise. For example, the rate of cardiovascular disease was 14% lower when moderate to vigorous activity made up 20% instead of 10% of activity, the equivalent of turning a 14-minute walk into a seven-minute brisk walk.

dr. Dempsey said: “Our results suggest that increasing the total volume of physical activity is not the only way to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease. Especially important was the increase in intensity, while the increase in both was optimal. This suggests that increasing the intensity of the activities you already do is good for heart health. For example, you speed up your daily walk to the bus stop or finish household chores faster.”

References:

  1. “Intense physical activity, heart disease and cancer: how little is enough?” Matthew N Ahmadi, Philip J Clare, Peter T Katzmarzyk, Borja del Pozo Cruz, I-Min Lee and Emmanuel Stamatakis, 27 October 2022, European Heart Journal.
    DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehac572
  2. “Volume, Intensity and Incident Cardiovascular Disease of Physical Activity” Paddy C Dempsey, Alex V Rowlands, Tessa Strain, Francesco Zaccardi, Nathan Dawkins, Cameron Razieh, Melanie J Davies, Kamlesh K Khunti, Charlotte L. Tom Yates, 27 October 2022. European Heart Journal.
    DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehac613
  3. “The Hare and the Tortoise: Physical Activity Intensity and Scientific Translation” Charles E Matthews and Pedro F Saint-Maurice, 27 Oct 2022, European Heart Journal.
    DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehac626





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