New Delhi: If you’re not a gym-goer, chances are you’re not losing out on too much. A new study has found that vigour of activity is far more important than its duration.
According to the study — led by the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre in Australia and published in Nature Medicine journal on 8 December — a one-minute bout of strenuous activity three to four times a day could dramatically reduce the risk of death by 39 per cent.
Whether that activity involves household chores, chasing after your dog or carrying groceries up several flights of stairs, it all counts as long as it is intensive. So, oft-repeated advice that one requires at least 150 minutes of moderate activity a week, may not be the norm anymore.
The study is the first to assess the health benefits of “vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity”, or what is commonly known as VILPA — essentially periods of brief but vigorous exercise.
“A few very short bouts totalling 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,” said Emmanuel Stamatakis, lead author of the study.
It was found that 89 per cent of participants undertook short bouts of intense activity, which lasted only about one or two minutes.
Mark Hamer, a professor of sport and exercise medicine at University College London and a co-author of the study, analysed data from the UK BioBank, a large-scale biomedical database and research resource.
Around 25,241 people participated in the study, who said they did not exercise at all in their leisure time or only ever went on one walk a week.
Around 14,178 women participated in the study compared to 11,063 men, who also wore activity trackers on their wrists for a week, for the BioBank study. The mean age of the participants was 61.8 years.
The researchers monitored the participants over a period of 6.9 years. In this time, 852 died, among which 511 were deaths caused by cancer and 266 by cardiovascular disease. VILPA was inversely proportional to these deaths.
A study of the rest — comparing those who engaged in no VILPA with participants who had three intensive bouts per day for about a minute or two — showed 38 to 40 per cent reduction in cancer mortality risk, and a 48 to 49 per cent reduction in deaths from cardiovascular disease.
It was also found that 11 one-minute bouts a day was linked to a 65 per cent lower risk of cardiovascular deaths and 49 per cent reduction in cancer-related deaths.
Factors such as age, sex, smoking, alcohol consumption, sleep duration, fruit and vegetable consumption, education etc were also adjusted when assessing the findings.
‘Similar benefits to HIIT’
A comparative analysis of vigorous activity of 62,000 people in a separate study also showed similar results.
Lead author Stamatakis said, “Our study shows similar benefits to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) that can be achieved through increasing the intensity of incidental activities done as part of daily living, and the more the better.”
HIIT is usually a challenging but short workout, where one performs a quick burst of exercise. It helps with keeping up one’s heart rate.
“The ability of wearable technology to reveal micropatterns of physical activity, such as VILPA, holds huge potential for understanding the most feasible and time-efficient ways people can benefit from physical activity, no matter whether it is done for recreation or as part of daily living,” Stamatakis added.
The transnational team from the University of Sydney, the University of Oxford, University College London, University of Glasgow, University of Southern Denmark and McMaster University (Canada) are calling for newer updates in physical activity guidelines, to keep up with this new information.
Also read: The route to a longer life? 30 minutes a week of muscle-strengthening exercises