Doing more vigorous exercise daily can be the key to increased longevity. Two-minute bursts of vigorous physical activity, totaling 15 minutes per week, are associated with a reduced risk of death, cancer and heart disease, new research has found. The study shows that relatively small amounts of weekly vigorous physical activity can have health benefits.
Experts describe how incorporating short bursts of exercise into your daily routine can have long-term health benefits.

Research shows that regular exercise reduces the risk of developing several long-term (chronic) diseases, such as cancer and heart disease. However, a new study, published in the European Heart Journal, focuses on the intensity and duration of exercise needed for people to experience health benefits.

For their study, the researchers recruited 71,893 adults with no signs of cardiovascular disease or cancer. Participants were selected from the UK Biobank study, a prospective cohort of participants aged 40-69.

The researchers analyzed the associations between the amount and frequency of intense physical activity and death (all causes, cardiovascular diseases and cancers) and the incidence of cardiovascular diseases and cancers. To understand the difference between moderate physical activity and vigorous physical activityTrusted Source, researchers defined moderate physical activity as exercise that noticeably increases heart rate but doesn’t necessarily leave people feeling out of breath.

In contrast, intense physical activity causes an increase in heart rate, and people often have to pause to breathe when speaking. Sprints, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), swimming, or high-speed cycling are examples of intense physical activity.

The researchers found that the risk of all of the adverse effects studied decreased as people increased the amount and frequency of their strenuous physical activity. For example, participants who did no strenuous physical activity had a 4% risk of dying within five years. This risk was reduced by half, to 2%, for people practicing less than 10 minutes of intense physical activity per week, and again by half, to 1%, for people practicing 60 minutes or more.

Use of wearable devices to assess physical activity

Participants were given wearable devices to monitor their physical activity.

The device allowed to classify the intensity of physical activity in the following categories

vigorous physical activity
moderate-intensity physical activity
light-intensity physical activity

It is one of the biggest [études] in the world based on wearable devices and the first to assess the health benefits of intense physical activity. Researchers have found that 15 minutes of intense physical activity per week is enough to reduce all-cause mortality and cancer risk by 15%, and that 20 minutes per week can reduce the risk of heart disease by 40%. With additional health benefits up to about 50-60 minutes per week. These results show that lower amounts of weekly vigorous physical activity were associated with health benefits against mortality, cancer and heart disease, compared to what was previously known from research evidence including more 90% are based on self-reported data.
By using wearable devices to track participants’ physical activity levels, they were able to get more objective and accurate measurements.

What does this mean for patients and the public?

These results “provide important information to clinicians for the treatment of patients at high risk for chronic disease and for public health messaging to the general public. The results will also provide important evidence in the next iteration of physical activity guidelines from the US, UK and WHO.

Overall, much shorter durations of intense physical activity were needed to reduce the risk of morbidity and mortality. Therefore, any physical activity that a person does provides them with the opportunity to engage in intense physical activity, if they can perform it at a faster pace or at a higher intensity for short periods of time. Doing more intense activities for short durations may also be easier to fit into the daily routine. This can be especially important for people who don’t have the time or don’t want to go to a gym or do “traditional” exercise.

Add short exercises to your daily routine

For people who are already exercising, it’s already great and they need to keep going. But people who can’t get to a gym can also reap the benefits of vigorous physical activity by performing their daily activities at a more brisk pace, even if only for short periods of time. For example, gardening or doing household chores at a slightly higher intensity for short periods of time, or brisk walking interspersed with a comfortable walking pace when walking around during the day.

Recommendations for those interested in starting higher intensity exercise:

It may mean gradually increasing the intensity over time and certainly not starting it initially as a means of physical training. For many, a low level, less intense program that progresses to this type of exercise may be a good way to start before moving on to this type of exercise. For others, it could be another type of fitness to use when life gets tough for exercise, business trips, school vacations, etc.

The sweet spot for weekly exercise

When it comes to knowing how much exercise time is enough, the study showed that there could be an optimum: 60 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week or a minimum of 15-20 minutes per week.

But vigorous physical activity may not be for everyone. Even short bursts of vigorous, high-intensity activity may not be immediately suitable for many people depending on their current activity, physical condition, medical condition, or injury history. For such activities to become habits, all fitness and exercise plans require commitment and adherence over a period of time, anything that can reduce the barriers to this practice can be positive.

* criptom strives to transmit health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE, the information given can not replace the opinion of a health professional.