The study finds that as little as three minutes a day of vigorous daily activity is linked to a 40% lower risk of premature death in adults, even when they don’t exercise at all.
“This is fantastic research,” said Ulrik Wisloff, director of the KG Jebsen Center for Exercise Medicine at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. He has studied potency and longevity extensively, but was not involved in the new study.
The study results add to the growing body of scientific evidence that adding a little intensity to our lives pays big dividends for our health, without the need for equipment, instructions, subscriptions to a gymnasium or overtime.
The fast science workout you can do almost anywhere
The idea that how we move influences our lifespan is not new. A great deal of research links regular exercise to a longer lifespan, including official public health exercise guidelines, which recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise for health and longevity, life expectancy.
However, more focused research suggests intensifying some of our exercise – making sure our heart rate and breathing increase – amplifies the health benefits. In a large-scale 2006 study by Wisloff’s lab, for example, just 30 minutes a week of intense exercise halved the risk of dying from heart disease in both men and women, compared to sedentary people. Similarly, a study published last year in JAMA Internal Medicine found that people who occasionally push themselves during exercise were about 17% less likely to die prematurely than other people who did the same amount of exercise, but at a more gentle and moderate pace.
Both of these studies, however, and similar previous research, were based on people’s subjective recollection of how much and how hard they exercised. They were also exercise studies, which makes them inherently interesting primarily for people who exercise or would like to exercise, which is not the majority of humanity.
“If we’re being honest, most people are allergic to the word ‘exercise,'” said Emmanuel Stamatakis, professor of physical activity and health studies at the University of Sydney in Australia, who led the news. study.
The health benefits of early chores and chasing toddlers
Recognizing this position, he and his colleagues have recently begun to question the effects of non-exercise activities – those frequent tasks and movements that make up a large part of our days but are not exercise. Would it matter to people’s health if these activities were done faster, harder, with a little more verve?
To find out, the researchers turned to the extensive data stored in Britain’s Biobank, which includes the health records of hundreds of thousands of British men and women, most of whom wore an accelerometer for a week after joining. the biobank to track their daily movements. The scientists extracted the records of 25,241 of these adults, aged 40 to 69, all of whom had told the researchers that they had never exercised.
Scientists then began to analyze their daily activities in great detail, determining the intensity of their movements almost second by second, based on the speed of steps and other data. The analysis consumed three months of constant computer time, Stamatakis said.
But in the end, the researchers were able to map the participants’ brief bursts of movement, such as when someone was running towards a train or chasing a toddler. These physical thrusts can last as little as a minute.
But they counted for mortality. By comparing activity patterns to death records over a period of about seven years after people joined the Biobank, scientists found that men and women who practiced an average of 4.4 minutes a day of this what scientists called vigorous intermittent physical activity were about 30% less likely to have died than those who rarely moved quickly in any way.
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Just move with enthusiasm a few times a day
Spreading out these brief bursts of activity increased profits. When people managed three or more separate rushes of movement in a day, each lasting as little as a minute, their mortality risk was reduced by 40%, compared to people who never rushed. They didn’t exercise. They just picked up the pace of something they were doing, at least three times a day.
Finally, the researchers performed a similar data analysis for 62,344 men and women in the Biobank who exercised, albeit mostly at a moderate pace. When these people managed a few minutes of more intense activity most days, whether during workouts or daily chores, their mortality risks were lower than if they were exercising, but almost never hard.
“There’s something about the intensity,” Stamatakis said.
To energize your own activities, Stamatakis continued, move hard and fast enough that conversation seems impossible. Aim for this level of breathlessness three or four times a day, for a minute or two, preferably while doing something you need to do anyway.
However, this study has limitations. It’s associative, showing only a relationship between rapid bursts of exertion and our lifespan, and doesn’t tell us why intensity matters, although other research indicates that intense exercise improves endurance. and cardiovascular health more than lighter workouts, Stamatakis said.
The result of the study, he concluded, is that rushing to complete our tasks now could save us years later.
Do you have a fitness question? E-mail YourMove@washpost.com and we may answer your question in a future column.
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