Short bursts of vigorous activity associated with longevity

Mart Production/Pexels

A recent study found that 15 minutes of vigorous activity each week was linked to a reduced risk of death.

The study was published in European Health Journal and led by Matthew Ahmadi, PhD, of the University of Sydney, Australia. For their investigation, Ahmadi and his colleagues sought to discover the relationship between short burst of vigorous exercise and longevity.

Included in the investigation were 71,893 men and women aged 40 to 69 from the UK Biobank. Researchers tracked their total amount of vigorous physical activity as well as their frequency of vigorous activity lasting two minutes or less using a wearable activity tracker. Participants were followed for an average of 6.9 years. Researchers then analyzed the associations between the length and frequency of vigorous activity with death from all-cause, cardiovascular disease, and cancer as well as incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer. Events from the first year were excluded.

Researchers found that risk of all five adverse outcomes decreased as the volume and frequency of vigorous activity increased. For instance, those with no vigorous activity had a four percent risk of dying, while those who had 10 minutes of vigorous activity a week had a two percent change of death, and those with 60 minutes or more had only a one percent risk of death.

Compared to two minutes of vigorous activity a week, 15 minutes per week was associated with an 18 percent lower likelihood of death and 15 percent lower likelihood of cardiovascular disease. In addition, 12 minutes of vigorous activity was linked to a 17 percent reduced risk of cancer. Researchers also observed that higher amounts of vigorous physical activity resulted in even lower risks of death, with 53 minutes a week linked to a 36 percent reduced likelihood of death from any cause.

When it came to frequency, investigators found that just two-minute bouts of vigorous exercise per day were associated with a 27 percent reduced risk of death. Yet, they found that even 10 minutes of vigorous exercise a week was linked to a 17 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease and 16 percent reduced risk of cancer.  

“The results indicate that accumulating vigorous activity in short bouts across the week can help us live longer,” said Ahmadi. “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.”

In a second investigation, also published in European Health Journal, researchers examined how intensity and length of vigorous physical activity was related to incidence of ischemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease. Their results showed that higher amounts of exercise at greater intensities were associated with a reduced incidence of both conditions.

“Our results suggest that increasing the total volume of physical activity is not the only way to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease,” said Patty Dempsey, PhD, of the University of Leicester and University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, lead author of the second study. “Raising the intensity was also particularly important, while increasing both was optimal.