What Short Bursts Of Physical Activity Can Do For Your Long-Term Health

The holiday season might have your time so scattered that getting the World Health Organization's recommended 150 minutes of weekly exercise might be one of your last priorities. But, during the course of your day, you're carrying heavy shopping bags up a flight or two of stairs, and you find yourself running to make your next train. These small bouts of exercise throughout your day still count, and a recent study in Nature Medicine says that they can also prolong your life.

Researchers call it vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity (VILPA), and in the past, they couldn't track these small bursts of activity on questionnaires for their research studies. Thanks to wearable trackers, however, the researchers in this study measured how VILPA might improve health in the long term. Rather than study exercisers, the researchers looked at more than 25,000 people who said they either didn't exercise or did no more than one recreational walk per week. The average age of the participants in this study was 62, and the researchers followed up with the participants seven years later.

Even short bursts of activity make a difference to health

The study found that people who had at least three bursts of intermittent exercise per day had up to 40% reduced risk of death by cancer or any cause. Cardiovascular deaths had almost a 50% reduced risk. The researchers also found similar risk reductions in people who regularly exercise. Also, the more exercise throughout the day, the better. People who had 11 short bursts of activity per day had a 65% reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 49% reduction in death by cancer.

In a news release about the study, lead author Emmanuel Stamatakis, Professor of Physical Activity, Lifestyle, and Population Health at the University of Sydney, said that the benefits of exercise aren't just confined to structured activities like cycling or going to the gym. "A few very short bouts totaling 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." The study said that VILPA might be a viable option for people who don't like exercise or who cannot exercise.

According to MedicalNewsToday, there are many ways you can fit in exercise while doing everyday activities. For example, you can practice your balance by standing on one leg while you're pumping gas. You can do also heel raises in a chair or while waiting in line.