According to recent research, engaging in brief, high-intensity physical activity, such as three to four one-minute intervals of vigorous exertion, may significantly decrease the risk of premature mortality, particularly in relation to cardiovascular disease.
This suggests that incorporating brief, vigorous physical activity into one’s daily routine may serve as an effective alternative to traditional forms of exercise, such as sports or gym-based activities.
The study published in the journal Nature Medicine, led by researchers at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre in Australia, has presented novel findings on the health benefits of a specific type of physical activity known as “vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity” (VILPA).
The study is the first to provide accurate measurement of the benefits associated with this form of exercise.
Vigorous Intermittent Lifestyle Physical Activity (VILPA) is characterized by brief, intense intervals of physical activity typically lasting no more than one to two minutes.
Examples of VILPA include activities such as sprinting to catch a bus, periods of brisk walking during daily errands, or engaging in high-energy games with children. These activities are performed with vigor and enthusiasm as a part of one’s daily routine.
The study, led by researchers at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre, found that incorporating as little as three to four one-minute intervals of VILPA into daily routine, is associated with a substantial reduction in overall mortality, cancer-related mortality, and death due to cardiovascular disease.
Specifically, the research suggests a reduction of up to 40 percent in all-cause mortality, up to 49 percent reduction in death related to cardiovascular disease.
The lead author of the study, Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis of Physical Activity, Lifestyle and Population Health at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre, commented on the findings stating:
“Our study demonstrates that similar benefits to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can be achieved through increasing the intensity of incidental activities performed as part of daily living, and suggests that greater participation in such activities may yield even greater benefits.
A few very short bouts totalling 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.
Upping 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,”Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis of Physical Activity, Lifestyle and Population Health at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre
The study found that 89 percent of all participants engaged in some form of Vigorous Intermittent Lifestyle Physical Activity (VILPA) in their daily lives. Among those who engaged in VILPA, 93 percent of all VILPA bouts lasted up to one minute.
On average, participants engaged in eight VILPA bouts of up to one minute each, totaling six minutes per day. The average duration of each VILPA bout was approximately 45 seconds.
The greatest gains were observed when comparing individuals who engaged in four to five VILPA bouts per day to those who did not engage in any VILPA.
However, larger benefits were found with greater participation in VILPA, suggesting that the more VILPA one engages in, the greater the potential health benefits.
The maximum of 11 VILPA bouts per day was associated with a 65 percent reduction in cardiovascular death risk and a 49 percent 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 structured exercise found comparable results. This suggests that whether the vigorous activity is done as part of structured exercise or daily activities, the health benefits are similar.
The study was conducted by utilizing wrist-worn activity tracker data from UK Biobank, a large-scale biomedical database, to measure the physical activity levels of over 25,000 individuals who self-reported that they do not engage in sports or exercise during leisure time.
This method allows the researchers to conclude that any activity recorded in this group was incidental physical activity performed as part of daily living. The research team also accessed participant’s health data to follow up over the course of 7 years.
It’s important to note that study is observational in nature, meaning that it cannot establish causality. However, the research team took rigorous statistical measures to minimize the possibility of results being explained by differences in health status between participants.
“These findings demonstrate just how valuable detailed and objective measures of physical activity can be when collected on a large-scale population. We are incredibly grateful to all of the 100,000 UK Biobank participants who wore an activity monitor for 7 days to generate these valuable data,”Professor Naomi Allen, Chief Scientist of UK Biobank.
The utilization of wearable technology to accurately measure and identify “micropatterns” of physical activity, such as Vigorous Intermittent Lifestyle Physical Activity (VILPA), presents a significant opportunity for researchers to gain a deeper understanding of the most efficient and feasible ways in which individuals can achieve health benefits through physical activity, regardless of whether it is done for recreation or as part of daily living.
- Emmanuel Stamatakis, Matthew N. Ahmadi, Jason M. R. Gill, Cecilie Thøgersen-Ntoumani, Martin J. Gibala, Aiden Doherty, Mark Hamer. Association of wearable device-measured vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity with mortality. Nature Medicine, 2022; DOI: 10.1038/s41591-022-02100-x