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Brief Spurts of Activity: A Lifesaver in Less Than 10 Minutes

by | Sep 29, 2023 at 6:22PM | Health

Brief Spurts of Activity Benefits of Short Bursts

Time often seems to be in short supply, the idea of improving one’s health with short bursts of activity may sound too good to be true. However, a groundbreaking study published in the journal The Lancet Public Health has revealed that even the briefest moments of physical activity, integrated into daily tasks, can have a profound impact on one’s overall health.

This research demonstrates that every minute truly counts when it comes to improving health and well-being, proving that the path to a healthier life might be shorter than we think.

The study, led by senior author Emmanuel Stamatakis, a professor of physical activity, lifestyle, and population health at the University of Sydney, focused on the daily routines of more than 25,000 adults aged 42 to 78 in the United Kingdom.

Participants wore fitness trackers akin to popular devices like Apple Watches or Fitbits for two years, while their health records were monitored for almost eight years to establish links between their physical activity levels and health outcomes.

Notably, the participants did not engage in structured exercise or sports; instead, their physical activity primarily consisted of short bursts lasting less than 10 minutes. The results of the study were astonishing. Those who incorporated just 1 to 3 minutes of physical activity into their daily routines experienced some health benefits. However, individuals who committed to 5 to 10 minutes of daily movement enjoyed the most significant improvements.

The impact of these short bursts of activity was staggering. The study revealed a 52% decrease in the risk of premature death, as well as a 41% decrease in the risks of heart attack and stroke, when compared to individuals who remained sedentary. This data reinforces the idea that even the briefest moments of physical activity can contribute to a longer and healthier life.

While the total duration of activity required to reap these health benefits remained under 10 minutes, the intensity and duration of each bout of activity were still important factors. Those who engaged in a minimum of 2 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity activity saw greater health benefits than those who engaged in 30 seconds of low-intensity activity.

Moderate intensity, as defined by Stamatakis, involves challenging physical activity where one can still speak comfortably but find it challenging to sing.

In contrast, vigorous intensity means the individual cannot speak more than a few words due to the exertion. The study found that the sweet spot for vigorous intensity was approximately 10 seconds per minute, emphasizing its significant health benefits.



These findings align with the broader body of research demonstrating that regular physical activity can significantly improve health and reduce the risk of various diseases. Notably, centenarians, who have reached the remarkable age of 100 years or more, are not typically “super athletes” who engage in several hours of daily exercise. Instead, an active lifestyle with short bursts of activity appears to be a more sustainable and effective approach to achieving a longer and healthier life.

High-intensity interval training (HIIT), a popular exercise routine involving short bursts of intense exercise with breaks in between, shares the same principle. Marc Roig, a physical and occupational therapy professor at McGill University in Montreal, emphasizes the importance of finding the right balance between intensity and duration, with 10-minute bouts of activity being ideal for tapping into the body’s energy-storing and burning mechanisms.

Dr. Susan Spratt, an endocrinologist and senior medical director for the Population Health Management Office at Duke Health in North Carolina, highlights the relevance of these findings for individuals with desk jobs who often find themselves sitting for extended periods. She suggests integrating dedicated periods of activity into the workday to promote overall health.

This groundbreaking study underscores the immense potential of short bursts of physical activity in improving health and preventing disease. It encourages individuals with busy lifestyles, desk jobs, or limited time for structured exercise to embrace this approach to enhance their well-being.

As Professor Stamatakis aptly summarizes, engaging in brief bouts of physical activity is “very, very promising,” offering a lifeline to those unwilling or unable to commit to traditional exercise regimens. In a world that often values prolonged workouts, this research reminds us that even the shortest moments of movement can be lifesavers.


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