Worried about not having enough time on the schedule for a decent set of vigorous exercise? A new study finds that even when exercise is done in short bursts throughout the day instead of a sustained period, it is actually beneficial for long-term health.
Physical Activity Guidelines
There are so many guidelines out there about the right kind and amount of physical activity for people to actually reap its health rewards. The current official guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services propose a minimum of 75 minutes of vigorous exercise or 150 minutes of moderate exercise spread out within the week, every week.
This gives most people the idea that perhaps in order to reach the weekly goal, it would be best to set aside maybe 10 or 20 minutes of some days of the week for exercise. Now, researchers have found that the rewards of physical activity may be reaped even if the exercise goal is reached by accumulating minutes of physical activity instead of a block of time.
Death Risk Reduction
In order to gather their findings, researchers analyzed data from 4,840 people participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between the years of 2003 and 2006. All of them were over 40 years of age, and each wore an accelerometer to quantify their physical activity. By 2011, 4,140 of the participants were still living.
Researchers found that those who got less than 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity per day had the highest risk for death, while those who got 60 minutes of physical activity per day reduced their risks of death by 57 percent. Further, getting a minimum of a hundred minutes of exercise a day cuts death risk by a whopping 76 percent.
Exercise Minutes Accumulation
Does this mean that everyone has to go to the gym or go jogging every day? Not quite. From the data they gathered, researchers also found that accumulating minutes of physical exertion works just as well as setting aside blocks of time for exercise. In fact, even the minutes spent just going up the stairs or walking counts as moderate exercise as long as it is done at a moderate or vigorous level. For instance, brisk walking at a pace that would make carrying a conversation rather difficult could count as moderate exertion.
Basically, the results show that even everyday activities may counteract the harmful effects of a sedentary lifestyle so long as it is done with enough exertion, even if it comes in a few minutes at a time.
"That flies in the face of public health recommendations, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and parking farther from your destination. Those don't take 10 minutes, so why were they recommended?" said study author William E. Kraus, M.D. of Duke University School of Medicine, speaking about the 30-year suggestion that the health benefits of moderate and vigorous activity may only be reaped with 10 minutes of sustained activity.
That said, the official guidelines are expected to be updated later this year. The study is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.