Research Press Release

Medicine: Short bursts of vigorous physical activity may reduce mortality risk

Nature Medicine

December 9, 2022

Short, vigorous bursts of physical activity one or two minutes in length, occurring as part of daily life — such as very fast walking — are associated with a substantially decreased risk of dying, according to a study published in Nature Medicine. This decreased risk was quantitatively similar to the effects of vigorous physical activity in the context of leisure-time exercise.

The growing availability of physical-activity data from wearable devices has made it possible to assess the health consequences of short bursts of activity, which were previously difficult to measure.

Emmanuel Stamatakis and colleagues analysed wearable accelerometer data from 25,241 participants in the UK Biobank, who reported that they do not engage in leisure-time physical activity. For this cohort, with a mean age of 61.8 years, mortality data were available for an average follow-up period of 6.9 years, during which 852 deaths occurred. They found that people who engaged in vigorous intermittent physical activity (VILPA), defined as bouts of activity lasting up to one or two minutes each, had substantially reduced risks of all-cause, cancer-related and cardiovascular-related mortality, compared with those of people who did not engage in VILPA. The authors concluded that 3 VILPA bouts per day lasting one or two minutes each were associated with a reduction of 38–40% in all-cause and cancer mortality risk and a reduction of 48–49% in cardiovascular disease mortality risk. This reduction in mortality risk was similar to the benefit of vigorous physical activity among 62,344 UK Biobank participants who reported that they did engage in leisure-time exercise.

The authors suggest that their findings show that people who are not able or willing to exercise can still greatly benefit from the short bursts of vigorous activity that occur over the course of daily life.

doi:10.1038/s41591-022-02100-x

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