Just a few small bursts of exercise each day may lower risk of death by 40%, study suggests

According to the CDC, 60% of Americans aren't engaging in the recommended amount of physical activity.

ByAlex Meier and Eduardo Sanchez WPVI logo
Monday, May 15, 2023
Small bursts of exercise daily may lower risk of death by 40%: Study
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New research shows the big benefits of small spurts of vigorous physical activity.

Can't find time to exercise? Just 5 minutes can go a long way.

New research shows the big benefits of small spurts of vigorous physical activity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60% of Americans aren't engaging in the recommended amount of physical activity -- with one in four living extremely inactive lifestyles.

"Extended periods of inactivity can essentially increase an individual's risk of heart disease, of developing cancer, becoming more obese, and eventually, at some point, dying early," said Priyanka Runwal.

In reporting on exercise for National Geographic's Mind Body Wonder series, Runwal found that a little bit of activity can go a long way.

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Recently, scientists in the U.K. used wearable fitness trackers to follow 25,000 self-described "non-exercisers" over a seven-year period. According to the study, those who engaged in one-to-two-minute bursts of intense physical activity three to four times each day saw major health benefits.

"That essentially translated to a 40% reduction in risk of mortality, a 40% reduction in the risk of dying from cancer, as well as a 50% reduction in the risk of dying from a heart disease," Runwal said.

This means anyone can benefit from amping up the pace of everyday activities.

"Carrying heavy shopping bags sometimes can help," she said. "Climbing upstairs instead of taking the elevator sometimes can help."

Ideally, these short bursts of intense physical activity complement (instead of replace) traditional exercise. The CDC recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week, which could include brisk walking or leisure bike riding, or 75 minutes a week of more vigorous activity, like running or jogging.

"The biggest takeaway from this study is move more and sit less," Runwal said.

Learn how you can make changes to your own lifestyle at NatGeo.com/health.

ABC OTV and National Geographic will explore health and wellness through four lenses: longevity, women's health, brain health, and diet and nutrition. Using the latest in scientific research and information from experts in the medical field, we'll answer questions about what's essential to the future of your health.

The Walt Disney Co. is the parent company of National Geographic Partners and this ABC station.