The old adage “something is better than nothing” is true even when you’re looking at maximizing your potential for an extra long life. The secret may not be in up-and-coming supplements, but just keeping busy.
We’ve learned how just small amounts of exercise can benefit the brain and keep normal aging processes for the brain and body at bay, and we’re learning more and more than 10,000 steps per day may not be a magic number. In a recent study from the University of Sydney, we’ve learned that even if you’re not exercising regularly, keeping yourself physically active around the house reduces your risk of a shortened lifespan by up to 65%.
The key to this study was that small bursts of activity around the house, defined by one-minute segments of activity that are strenuous enough to cause you to catch your breath, had the same benefits as high-intensity interval training workouts. Following the same principle, increasing heart rate and therefore needing to huff and puff during exertion has effects that are cumulative and build up throughout the day.
These segments of activity have been called vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity, and the good news is that most of us have activities both in and out of the house that meet these criteria. Even if you’re only raising your heart rate for a brief time—even just a minute—if you do this at least 3 to 4 times per day, you’re in a much better category for a longer life.
The study followed participants who regularly exercise and those who don’t exercise at all. Those people who had more segments of activity (about four or five per day) had the best results, and those who got up to a maximum of eleven sessions per day could extend their lifespan up to 65% for cardiovascular events.
As always, more is better when it comes to being active for the wide range of benefits for mind and body. This study isn’t an excuse to stop your exercise routine, but more of a reminder that activity is key, even if you don’t get to the gym every day.
Emmanuel Stamatakis, Matthew N. Ahmadi, Jason M. R. Gill, et al. Association of wearable device-measured vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity with mortality. Nature Medicine, 2022; DOI: 10.1038/s41591-022-02100-x