Why Quick Bursts Of Vigorous Activity Are A Game-Changer | 15 Minutes Of Exercise A Week Is Linked To A Longer Life
Exercise: Although doing any intensity of physical activity is better than doing none, accumulating evidence suggests that vigorous exercise at a higher intensity gives us more bang for the buck than easy, lower-intensity workouts—in half the time or less.
For example, a recent study (Dempsey et al., 2022) found that an ambling 14-minute stroll has roughly the same cardiovascular benefits as an uptempo seven-minute walk at a brisk pace. This study included 88,412 older adults with a mean age of 62. On average, participants’ weekly exercise habits were tracked for 6.8 years.
“Our study shows that it’s not just the amount of activity, but also the intensity, that is important for cardiovascular health,” first author Paddy Dempsey said in an October 2022 news release. “Increasing the total volume of physical activity is not the only way to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease. Raising the intensity was also particularly important while increasing both was optimal.”
Quick Bouts of Vigorous Exercise Increase Longevity in Less Time
Another new study (Ahmadi et al., 2022) on the benefits of short bouts of physical activity found that quick bursts of vigorous physical activity throughout the day can lower older adults’ risk of premature death by 16% to 27%, depending on the daily frequency and weekly totals.
For example, doing one two-minute burst of high-intensity exercise every day for a total of 14 minutes per week was associated with about an 18% lower risk of all-cause mortality (death from any cause). Matthew Ahmadi and colleagues also found that doing as little as one to nine minutes per week of vigorous activity in quick bursts versus doing zero vigorous activity was associated with significantly lower all-cause mortality risk over five years.
This study involved 71,893 older adults with a mean age of 62.5. The researchers tracked the total amount of weekly physical activity and focused on the frequency of vigorous bursts of exercise lasting two minutes or less. On average, participants were followed for 6.9 years.
“The results indicate that accumulating vigorous activity in short bouts across the week can help us live longer,” Ahmadi explains. “Given that lack of time is the most commonly reported barrier to regular physical activity, accruing small amounts sporadically during the day may be a particularly attractive option for busy people.”
Both of these studies on the benefits of shorter bouts of vigorous activity at a higher intensity used data from the U.K. Biobank database and were published in the Oct. 27, 2022, issue of the peer-reviewed European Heart Journal.
More Research Is Needed to Pinpoint Optimal Exercise Intensities at Different Stages of Life
In an accompanying EHJ editorial, Charles Matthews and Pedro Saint-Maurice reflect on Aesop’s “The Tortoise and the Hare” fable as a metaphor that symbolizes epidemiological differences between slower, low-intensity exercise and faster, high-intensity physical activity.
“Current physical activity recommendations are predicated on the idea that both the hare and the tortoise can win the race for better health, but the provocative studies in this issue of the European Heart Journal give an edge to the hare’s higher-intensity approach,” they write.
Notably, Matthews and Saint-Maurice identify some limitations to the latest (2022) research on the benefits of shorter bouts of higher-intensity exercise published in the EHJ. Because both studies focused solely on a cohort of older adults (aged 40 to 69) with a mean age of about 62, their editorial notes that more research is needed to “examine the consistency of these new findings in other study populations.”
Disclaimer: This post is not intended as medical advice. If vigorous physical activity isn’t part of your daily routine, consult a healthcare provider and discuss any potential risks associated with doing short bouts of high-intensity exercise based on your medical history before making lifestyle changes.
15 Minutes Of Exercise A Week Is Linked To A Longer Life
Squeezing exercise into a busy schedule can be tough. However, new research suggests that doing just 15 minutes of physical activity over the course of a week is linked to a lower risk of dying prematurely compared to not exercising at all—as long as the movement gets your heart pumping.
In the study, published Oct. 27 in the European Heart Journal, researchers used a data set to track nearly 72,000 people in the U.K., who were ages 40 to 69 and didn’t have cardiovascular disease or cancer when they enrolled, for about seven years. The researchers zeroed in on a week at the start of the study during which everyone wore an activity tracker on their wrist. People who did no vigorous activity during that week had a 4% risk of dying sometime during the study,
but for people who got at least 10 minutes, that risk was cut in half. Among people who got 60 minutes or more, that risk fell to 1%. Overall, the researchers estimated that getting 15 to 20 minutes a week of vigorous physical activity was linked to a reduction in the risk of dying by 16% to 40%.
It comes as no surprise that the more time people spent doing vigorous physical activity, the greater the longevity benefit. But the “sweet spot” where people benefited the most was about 60 minutes a week, says Matthew Ahmadi, a research fellow at the University of Sydney in Australia and lead author of the study.
(That’s not to say exercise beyond an hour was necessarily worse, noted Ahmadi; because the study didn’t include many people who got more vigorous physical activity, the potential maximum benefits of getting more intense physical activity are unknown.)
Even if people don’t have the time to go to the gym, the study shows it’s possible to get health benefits from day-to-day activities because short-duration exercise can add up, says Ahmadi. He suggests picking up your pace or working more intensely
at things you already do—for instance, walking, gardening, or even doing chores. “Any physical activity a person is doing provides an opportunity to do vigorous physical activity if they can do the activity at a faster pace or higher intensity for just short periods of time,” he says. What counts as vigorous physical activity varies depending on your level of fitness, he notes, but a good sign that you’re doing it is having difficulty holding a conversation.
A similar observational study, also published on Oct. 27 in the European Heart Journal by a different group of researchers, also suggests that the intensity of physical activity—not just the time spent moving—is important to reduce cardiovascular disease. In the study, which also looked at adults of the same age in the same U.K. Data set, researchers tracked about 88,000 people for about seven years.
After analyzing data from the week during which people used activity trackers, researchers found that doing physical activity with greater intensity was linked to a reduction in people’s cardiovascular disease, even without increasing the number of time people exercised. For example, people who walked quickly for seven minutes instead of slowly for 14 minutes during that week had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease later on.
The studies were both observational, which means that the research can’t prove that physical activity was the reason why people who did it lived longer—or had the less cardiovascular disease—than those who didn’t. The week of physical activity
was also just a snapshot in time, and people’s habits may have changed later. However, other studies have also found that short bursts of movement can reduce the risk of death. One 2011 study published in the Lancet found that just 15 minutes of physical activity a day could reduce the risk of early death. A 2014 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that just 5 to 10 minutes a day of running could reduce early death from any cause.
The new research doesn’t mean the total time you spend moving isn’t important, says Paddy Dempsey, an author of the cardiovascular-disease study and a research fellow at the University of Cambridge. People with the very lowest rates of cardiovascular disease got more physical activity overall and got the most moderate-to-vigorous physical activity.
Although any movement is valuable, Dempsey says, if you’re strapped for time, “adding in a bit of intensity can provide unique health benefits, while also potentially making workouts more time efficient.”
Men And Women React Differently To Reduced Physical Activity And Increased Sugar. Here’s How
New Delhi: The study has discovered that short-term lifestyle changes can impair blood vessel sensitivity to insulin and also demonstrated how these alterations affect men and women differently.
The study was published in the journal, “Endocrinology.”
Vascular insulin-resistance”>insulin resistance is a feature of obesity and type 2 diabetes that contributes to vascular disease. Researchers examined vascular insulin resistance”>insulin resistance in 36 young and healthy men and women by exposing them to 10 days of reduced physical activity, cutting their step count from 10,000 to 5,000 steps per day. The participants also increased their sugary beverage intake to six cans of soda per day.
“We know that incidence of insulin-resistance”>insulin resistance and cardiovascular disease is lower in premenopausal women compared to men, but we wanted to see how men and women reacted to reduced physical activity and increased sugar in their diet over a short period of time,” said Camila Manrique-Acevedo, MD, associate professor of medicine.
The results showed that only in men did the sedentary lifestyle and high sugar intake cause decreased insulin-stimulated leg blood flow and a drop in a protein called a drop-in, which regulates insulin sensitivity and is an important biomarker for cardiovascular disease.
“These findings underscore a sex-related difference in the development of vascular insulin-resistance”>insulin resistance induced by adopting a lifestyle high in sugar and low on exercise,” said Manrique-Acevedo.
“To our knowledge, this is the first evidence in humans that vascular insulin-resistance”>insulin resistance can be provoked by short-term adverse lifestyle changes, and it`s the first documentation of sex-related differences in the development of vascular insulin-resistance”>insulin resistance in association with changes in a drop in levels.”
Manrique-Acevedo said she would next like to examine how long it takes to reverse these vascular and metabolic changes and more fully assess the impact of the role of sex in the development of vascular insulin-resistance”>insulin resistance.
The entire MU research team consisted of Jaume Padilla, Ph.D., associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology and co-corresponding author of this work; Luis Martinez-Lemus, DVM, Ph.D., professor of medical pharmacology and physiology, and R. Scott Rector, Ph.D., associate professor of nutrition. It also included postdoctoral fellows Rogerio Soares, Ph.D.; and graduate students James A. Smith and Thomas Jurrissen.
Their study, “Young women are protected against vascular insulin-resistance”>insulin resistance induced by adoption of an obesogenic lifestyle.” Part of the support for this study was provided by the National Institutes of Health and a VA Merit Grant. The content does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agency. The authors declare no potential conflicts of interest.
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