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Engaging in everyday activities like stair climbing can promote a longer life. A recent study monitoring 25,000 individuals through wearables suggests that brief episodes of such incidental activity may lower the chances of heart attacks, strokes, and premature death. However, the duration and intensity of these activities play a crucial role.

Most people exercise in bouts lasting less than 10 minutes

Recent research led by Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis from the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre highlights the importance of short, non-structured physical activities for our health. While structured exercise is well-known to have health benefits, there is limited knowledge about the positive effects of incidental activities such as climbing stairs or quick floor mopping.

Researchers utilized wrist-worn wearables and machine learning to study the physical activity patterns of 25,241 UK adults aged 42 to 78 over seven days. They focused on 10-second intervals, connecting these patterns to participants’ health records over nearly eight years to uncover correlations between physical activity bout duration and intensity with health outcomes.

In the study involving individuals who reported no exercise or sports participation, researchers found that 97% of their physical activity occurred in sessions lasting less than 10 minutes with short bouts of moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise under 10 minutes being linked to a significant reduction in major cardiac events and overall mortality.

Moving for 1-3 minutes consistently effective than short bouts

Consistently moving for 1 to 3 minutes at a time offered a 29% greater benefit than very short bouts lasting under 1 minute while longer exercise sessions were more beneficial than shorter ones, irrespective of total activity levels. The inclusion of vigorous activity yielded the greatest advantages. Even bouts under 1 minute were beneficial when the 15% vigorous activity rule was followed.

The study indicates that engaging in daily activities of moderate intensity, involving continuous movement for one to three minutes, can potentially lower the risk of major cardiac events. This approach seems to offer similar health benefits as longer bouts of activity lasting five to ten minutes, according to Dr. Matthew Ahmadi, the study’s lead author.