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Just a minute: Short, sharp bouts of exercise good for heart health

Insights

One-minute bursts of exercise – like running for the bus – could prevent premature death especially from cardiovascular disease, the results of a new study show.

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The study by the University of Sydney suggests one-minute bursts of huffing and puffing throughout the day could be as beneficial as playing a sport or going to the gym.

Data from wrist trackers worn by more than 25,000 “non-exercisers” across seven years was used in the study.

Researchers looked at the data and suggested large reductions of premature death risks could be associated with taking part in vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity.

Those short bursts of vigorous activity range from power walking while doing errands to playing high-energy games with the kids.

The majority of adults aged over 40 do not regularly exercise but the study’s lead author, Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis, says doing short bursts of activity could be a way to overcome many barriers.

“Upping the intensity of daily activities requires no time commitment, no preparation, no club memberships, no special skills,” Stamatakis said.

“It simply involves stepping up the pace while walking or doing the housework with a bit more energy.”

Eleven bouts per day was associated with a 65 per-cent reduction in cardiovascular death risk and a 49 per-cent reduction in cancer-related death risk.

Bursts of activity didn’t last long either, with each lasting an average of 45 seconds.

Researchers compared the study to data from people who regularly exercised and found results were similar.

Although the study is observational, meaning it cannot directly establish cause and effect, researchers are confident vigorous activity will provide the same health benefits as structured exercise.

“There are many daily activities that can be tweaked to raise your heart rate for a minute or so,” Stamatakis said.

“A few, very short bouts totalling three to four minutes a day could go a long way.”

The study was published in Nature Medicine on Friday.

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