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A few minutes of intense activity during daily tasks can prolong your life

Researchers from Australia with an SDU researcher on the team have examined the benefits of short-term intense physical activity as part of everyday life.

By Marianne Lie Becker, , 12/8/2022

This is most likely good news for people who do not enjoy sports or going to the gym.

New research shows that just one minute of physical exertion repeated three to four times per day while carrying out daily tasks is associated with significant reductions in the risk of premature death, particularly from cardiovascular disease.

The study has been published in the journal Nature Medicine and was led by the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre in Australia.

The project includes Cecilie Thøgersen-Ntoumani, Professor of Psychology of Physical Activity and Health, who recently joined SDU's new centre Driven (Danish Centre for Motivation and Behaviour Science), and worked at Curtin University in Perth, Australia, before.

Benefits of running for the bus

Cecilie Thøgersen-Ntoumani says about the study:
- This is the first study to accurately measure the health benefits of what we call ‘vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity’ (VILPA).

VILPA is characterised by the very short bursts of intense activity (up to one to two minutes) we do every day, in which the heart rate goes up. This could be running for the bus, a quick walk while carrying out an errand or lively play with the children.

The researchers discovered that just three to four one-minute bursts of VILPA each day are associated with up to 40% reduction in the risk of mortality from cancer and in general, as well as up to 49% reduction in mortality related to cardiovascular disease.

One of the great advantages of intense activity during daily tasks is that it can be integrated into activities that people enjoy, such as active play with children or grandchildren

Cecilie Thøgersen-Ntoumani, professor

- Our study shows that the benefits of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can be achieved by increasing the intensity of sporadic activities carried out as part of daily life, and the more the better, said lead author Emmanuel Stamatakis, Professor of Physical Activity, Lifestyle and Population Health at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre.

- A few very short bursts totalling three to four minutes a day can go a long way, and there are many daily activities that can be adjusted to raise your heart rate for a minute or so.

The majority of adults aged 40 and over do not participate in regular exercise or sport, but according to the study, sporadic physical activity can overcome many barriers.

Picking up the pace

Increasing the intensity of daily activities requires no time commitment, no preparation, no club memberships and no special skills. It simply means picking up the pace while walking or putting a little more energy into doing the housework.

Professor Cecilie Thøgersen-Ntoumani is a co-author of the study and is on the team that received research funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia to investigate how to measure and define VILPA and identify factors that may be suitable for developing interventions for increasing VILPA in the adult population.

About the study

The project was carried out by researchers from the University of Sydney, the University of Oxford’s Big Data Institute (UK), University College London (UK), the University of Glasgow (UK), McMaster University (Canada) and the University of Southern Denmark.

Her contribution to the team is expertise on behaviour change.

- One of the great advantages of VILPA is that it can be integrated into activities that people enjoy doing, such as active play with children or grandchildren. We can also easily choose to speed up activities that are already part of everyday life, such as shopping, walking to and from different places or cleaning the house, says Cecilie Thøgersen-Ntoumani.

- VILPA is therefore particularly suitable for people who don’t like structured training. Even the activities people don’t enjoy but which they do in the course of their everyday lives, such as vacuuming, can yield benefits from being done more quickly.

Read the scientific article in Nature Medicine here

Meet the researcher

Cecilie Thøgersen-Ntoumani is a professor Psychology of Physical Activity and Health at the University of Southern Denmarks Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics.


Editing was completed: 08.12.2022