Loose Women: Dr Hilary discusses how to live longer
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Exercise is one of the most potent weapons you can add to your arsenal of protection against chronic diseases. What’s more, staving off culprits like heart disease and cancer could boost your overall longevity. While you might think you need to invest hours of time and hundreds of pounds into gym memberships and equipment, exercising your way to a longer life might be surprisingly easy and quick.
Between your nine-to-five job and other responsibilities, it might feel like there’s no time for exercise left.
Fortunately, a new study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, suggests that short one-minute sessions of physical activity could still be potent for your health and longevity.
The researchers found that any short, vigorous activities in your daily routine — think power walking, intense housecleaning, or playing with kids or pets — may significantly reduce your risk of dying from cancer or heart disease.
According to the surprising research, just three bursts of huffing and puffing during daily chores are as good for you as playing sports or going to the gym.
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The research team from the University of Sydney looked at data from 87,500 Britons who were self-described as “non-exercisers” over seven years of follow-up.
They found that hitting the gym and sweating through your clothes wasn’t a requirement for longevity.
Some participants only got a daily dose of exercise in the form of brief, strenuous actions like running to catch a bus, taking the stairs, or doing high-energy chores.
Despite being just one to two minutes at a time, the short activities were linked to similar health benefits as more structured exercises.
The team discovered that as little as four to six minutes a day of vigorous activity – spread out across three sessions – was linked to up to 49 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease and up to 40 percent lower risk of dying from any cause.
While the small bursts of exercise were potent enough to boost your longevity, the more activity the participants did, the better.
Up to 11 short sessions per day were linked to 65 percent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, and 49 percent lower risk of dying from cancer.
Lead author Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis, of the University of Sydney, said: “It 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.
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“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.”
To implement these short bouts of exercise in your routine, you need to do any physical activity with gusto.
The findings come from participants who wore trackers on their wrists. The data implied that whether vigorous activity is done as part of structured exercise or housework, the health benefits were not compromised.
Most over-40s do no regular exercise or sport but incidental physical activity can overcome many barriers, according to Professor Stamatakis.
The researcher added: “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.”
The research team is now calling for physical activity guidelines and clinical advice to be updated to keep pace with this evolving area.
Currently, health experts suggest at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise – or a combination of both.
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