According to new research, one-minute bursts of activity, during daily tasks, could prolong your life. This research shows that just three to four one-minute bursts of moderate-intensity during daily tasks is associated with large reductions in the risk of premature death, particularly from cardiovascular disease. Published in Nature Medicine, the study is the first to accurately measure the health benefits of what researchers have termed “vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity” or VILPA.
VILPA is the very short bouts of vigorous activity (up to one to two minutes) we do with gusto each day, like running for the bus, bursts of power walking while doing errands, playing high-energy games with the kids, or taking the stairs. The researchers found that just three to four one-minute bouts of VILPA every day is associated with up to 40% reduction in all-cause and cancer-related mortality, and up to a 49% reduction in death related to cardiovascular disease.
The study shows similar benefits to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can be achieved through increasing the intensity of incidental activities done as part of daily living, and the more the better. A few very short bouts totaling 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.
Many adults aged 40 and over do not take part in regular exercise or sport, but the study reveals how incidental physical activity can overcome many barriers. Increasing the intensity of daily activities requires no time commitment, no preparation, no club memberships, no special skills. It simply involves stepping up the pace while walking or doing the housework with a bit more energy.
Exercise As Part of Daily Life
About 89% of all participants did some VILPA. Among those who did VILPA:
- 93% of all VILPA bouts last up to 1 minute.
- On average each day participants did eight VILPA bouts of up to 1 minute each, totaling 6 minutes a day.
- On average each VILPA bout lasted around 45 seconds.
- The best results were seen when comparing those with four to five bouts per day to those with no VILPA.
However, larger benefits were found with larger VILPA amounts, suggesting the more the better. The maximum of eleven bouts per day was associated with a 65% reduction in cardiovascular death risk and 49% reduction in cancer-related death risk, compared to no VILPA.
Interestingly, a comparative analysis of the vigorous activity of 62,000 people who regularly engaged in exercise found comparable results. This implies that whether the vigorous activity is done as part of structured exercise, or simply housework, the health benefits are the same.
Current global guidelines imply that the health benefits of vigorous-intensity physical activity are gained through structured physical activity such as sport or running during leisure time. It was only in 2020 that the WHO global Guidelines on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior, acknowledged that ‘all activity counts’ and the stipulation that activity should be accumulated in 10-minute bouts was removed.
*Dr. Peters is the founder of “The Fitness Doctor” (www.thefitnessdoctors.com) and a professor of Health & Human Performance. He has a Ph.D. in Physiology from Kent State University and is a certified member of the American College of Sports Medicine. Dr. Peters is also a graduate of St. Ignatius High School and John Carroll University. If you found this article interesting, read more on his website. He can be reached at [email protected].