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Brief Daily Bursts Of Physical Activity Can Significantly Reduce Heart Disease Risk Health News

A recent study has unveiled a compelling link between non-exercise physical activity and a reduced risk of major adverse cardiovascular events, underlining the significance of short bursts of physical activity in preventing heart disease. This discovery not only highlights the importance of prolonged exercise but also underscores the potential benefits of integrating short activity intervals into daily routines.

The study, published in The LANCET Public Health, centered on a substantial cohort of individuals who did not engage in leisure-time exercise. Researchers explored how intermittent moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, lasting as little as 1 to 5 minutes throughout the day, impacted overall mortality and the likelihood of experiencing severe cardiovascular events.

The results demonstrated that these brief episodes of physical activity were associated with a lower risk of mortality, heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, and other major cardiovascular events. Even bursts of activity lasting less than a minute were effective in reducing the risk of severe cardiovascular events, but only when at least 15% of the activity reached a vigorous intensity.

Study author Matthew Ahmadi, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Sydney School of Health Sciences, shared key insights from the research: "The major findings of the study was using wrist-worn wearables, similar to conventional smartwatches, we found that doing daily activities (such as gardening, household tasks, or walking to the store) with extra effort in brief bursts with a little bit of pace and effort lasting at least 1-5 minutes at a time has health enhancing benefits and can lower the risk of heart attack and stroke by 29-44%."

This study marks a pivotal discovery, demonstrating that even short bouts of physical activity can contribute significantly to cardiovascular health. This is particularly encouraging for individuals who struggle to find extended periods for exercise in their daily schedules.

Non-study author Dr. Cheng-Han Chen, a board-certified interventional cardiologist and medical director of the Structural Heart Program at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills, CA, noted the study's potential impact on public health: "This study is the first to show that even brief periods of physical activity (as low as a few minutes) throughout the day may reduce someone’s risk of death or cardiac event. These findings are promising to public health, as it might be easier for people to incorporate shorter periods of physical activity as a daily habit than a longer structured exercise routine. We can use this information to further promote physical activity, especially in patients who are not able to exercise."

Non-study author Dr. Alexandra Lajoie, a noninvasive cardiologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, further added: "I often tell my patients that if they do not have time for a dedicated exercise regimen, that they should try to fit in any activity that they can find time for including taking the stairs instead of an elevator, parking in farther spots, or doing exercises in place even if they only have a few minutes free during the day."

However, the study has certain limitations, such as its reliance on data from the UK Biobank, which may not be generalizable to other populations. Additionally, the tracking of activity levels for only one week suggests that future research could explore more extended data collection periods.

Researchers also acknowledged the possibility of reverse causality, confounding, and misclassification of moderate-to-vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity. Moreover, a time lag of 5.5 years between collecting covariate data and measuring physical activity with accelerometry could have influenced the results.

Matthew Ahmadi highlighted the need for continued research to understand the mechanisms behind the cardiovascular benefits of short bursts of daily activities. Potential pathways could include improvements in blood pressure, blood sugar control, cardiac output, and a reduction in oxidative stress.

To encourage more physical activity in daily life, individuals can explore simple options such as brisk walking, taking the stairs, or engaging in active play with children. Dr. Chen suggested practical strategies like taking short 5-minute walks during breaks, opting for stairs over elevators, parking farther from stores, and incorporating light weights or dancing while watching TV.

In summary, this study emphasises the potential health benefits of incorporating brief, regular periods of physical activity into one's daily routine. It offers hope that even individuals with busy schedules can take steps towards better cardiovascular health by finding opportunities for short bursts of activity throughout the day.