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Texas Family Medicine December 2022 Blog

Short bursts of physical activity leads to extended longevity

A British study of thousands of people wearing activity wristbands that track activity levels concluded that one to two bursts of intense physical activity each day prolonged life by about 40%.

The duration of the physical activity was just 1-2 minutes and involved activities that happen in the flow of life. Stair climbing a couple of flights or a brisk walk to work were examples.

The mechanism of action was probably the sudden increase of heart muscle contraction and the release of adrenaline. With intense physical work, the body emits chemicals such as nitric oxide that prevent cardiovascular events such as heart attacks.

The study proved an all-cause mortality benefit of about 40%, but the prevention of death from heart attacks was higher, reaching almost 50%. That’s amazing!

The researchers gathered their data from physiologic recording devices that tracked heart rate and movement. That means we can trust the information. Conversely, a lot of other studies rely on individual responses to questionnaires which can produce incorrect results.

I find this kind of data to be particularly helpful to our patients. A lot of us have good intentions in regards to daily exercise but find it hard to follow through. Exercising for 30-40 minutes a day, while remarkably beneficial, is boring and difficult.

All of the people in this study were non-exercisers, and they received a health benefit similar to that of what people who exercise regularly get.

That’s encouraging!

What does it mean for you, our patient?

It means you can be healthier just by walking briskly around the block a couple of times a day. A long slog at the gym isn’t required.

So set a timer for a twice a day stair climb break, just 2 minutes each. And maybe strap on a FitBit to track your progress.

Dr. Brian Byrd

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