Summary: Two-minute bursts of vigorous physical activity totaling 16 minutes per week were associated with an 18% reduced risk of death and a 15% reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Burst exercise up to 53 minutes per week is linked to a 36% lower risk of death from any health cause.
Source: European Society of Cardiology
Two-minute bursts of vigorous activity totalling 15 minutes a week are associated with a reduced risk of death, according to research published today in European Heart Journal, a journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).
“The results indicate that accumulating vigorous activity in short bouts across the week can help us live longer,” said study author Dr. Matthew N. Ahmadi of the University of Sydney, Australia.
“Given that lack of time is the most commonly reported barrier to regular physical activity, accruing small amounts sporadically during the day may be a particularly attractive option for busy people.”
A second study, also published today in EHJ, found that for a given amount of physical activity, increasing the intensity was associated with a reduced likelihood of cardiovascular disease.
“Our study shows that it’s not just the amount of activity, but also the intensity, that is important for cardiovascular health,” said study author Dr. Paddy C. Dempsey of the University of Leicester and University of Cambridge, UK, and the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, Australia.
Both studies included adults aged 40 to 69 years from the UK Biobank. Participants wore an activity tracker on their wrist for seven consecutive days. This is an objective way to measure motion, and particularly sporadic activity of different intensities during the day.
The first study enrolled 71,893 adults without cardiovascular disease or cancer. The median age was 62.5 years and 56% were women. The investigators measured the total amount of weekly vigorous activity and the frequency of bouts lasting two minutes or less. Participants were followed for an average of 6.9 years.
The investigators analysed the associations of volume and frequency of vigorous activity with death (all-cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer) and incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer after excluding events occurring in the first year.
The risk of all five adverse outcomes reduced as the volume and frequency of vigorous activity increased, with benefits seen even with small amounts. For example, participants with no vigorous activity had a 4% risk of dying within five years. Risk was halved to 2% with less than 10 minutes of weekly vigorous activity, and fell to 1% with 60 minutes or more.
Compared with just two minutes of vigorous activity per week, 15 minutes was associated with an 18% lower risk of death and a 15% lower likelihood of cardiovascular disease, while 12 minutes was associated with a 17% reduced risk of cancer. Further gains were observed with greater amounts of vigorous activity. For instance, approximately 53 minutes a week was associated with a 36% lower risk of death from any cause.
Regarding frequency, accumulating short bouts (up to two minutes) of vigorous activity on average four times a day was associated with a 27% lower risk of death. But health benefits were observed at even lower frequencies: 10 short bouts a week was associated with 16% and 17% lower risks of cardiovascular disease and cancer, respectively.
The second study included 88,412 adults free of cardiovascular disease. The average age was 62 years and 58% were women. The investigators estimated the volume and intensity of physical activity, then analysed their associations with incident cardiovascular disease (ischaemic heart disease or cerebrovascular disease). Participants were followed for a median 6.8 years.
The researchers found that both higher amounts and greater intensity were associated with lower rates of incident cardiovascular disease. Increasing the intensity led to greater reductions in cardiovascular disease for the same volume of exercise.
For example, the rate of cardiovascular disease was 14% lower when moderate-to-vigorous activity accounted for 20% rather than 10% of activity, the equivalent of converting a 14 minute stroll into a brisk seven minute walk.
Dr. Dempsey said: “Our results suggest that increasing the total volume of physical activity is not the only way to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease. Raising the intensity was also particularly important, while increasing both was optimal.
“This indicates that boosting the intensity of activities you already do is good for heart health. For example, picking up the pace on your daily walk to the bus stop or completing household chores more quickly.”
About this exercise and longevity research news
Author: Justine Pinot
Source: European Society of Cardiology
Contact: Justine Pinot – European Society of Cardiology
Image: The image is in the public domain
Original Research: Open access.
“Vigorous physical activity, incident heart disease, and cancer: how little is enough?” by Ahmadi MN et al. European Heart Journal
“Physical activity volume, intensity and incident cardiovascular disease” by Dempsey PC et al. European Heart Journal
Vigorous physical activity, incident heart disease, and cancer: how little is enough?
Vigorous physical activity (VPA) is a time-efficient way to achieve recommended physical activity levels. There is a very limited understanding of the minimal and optimal amounts of vigorous physical activity in relation to mortality and disease incidence.
Methods and results
A prospective study in 71 893 adults [median age (IQR): 62.5 years (55.3, 67.7); 55.9% female] from the UK Biobank cohort with wrist-worn accelerometry. VPA volume (min/week) and frequency of short VPA bouts (≤2 min) were measured. The dose–response associations of VPA volume and frequency with mortality [all-cause, cardiovascular disease (CVD) and cancer], and CVD and cancer incidence were examined after excluding events occurring in the first year. During a mean post-landmark point follow-up of 5.9 years (SD ± 0.8), the adjusted 5-year absolute mortality risk was 4.17% (95% confidence interval: 3.19%, 5.13%) for no VPA, 2.12% (1.81%, 2.44%) for >0 to <10 min, 1.78% (1.53%, 2.03%) for 10 to <30 min, 1.47% (1.21%, 1.73%) for 30 to <60 min, and 1.10% (0.84%, 1.36%) for ≥60 min. The ‘optimal dose’ (nadir of the curve) was 53.6 (50.5, 56.7) min/week [hazard ratio (HR): 0.64 (0.54, 0.77)] relative to the 5th percentile reference (2.2 min/week). There was an inverse linear dose-response association of VPA with CVD mortality. The ‘minimal’ volume dose (50% of the optimal dose) was ∼15 (14.3, 16.3) min/week for all-cause [HR: 0.82 (0.75, 0.89)] and cancer [HR: 0.84 (0.74, 0.95)] mortality, and 19.2 (16.5, 21.9) min/week [HR: 0.60 (0.50, 0.72)] for CVD mortality. These associations were consistent for CVD and cancer incidence. There was an inverse linear association between VPA frequency and CVD mortality. 27 (24, 30) bouts/week was associated with the lowest all-cause mortality [HR: 0.73 (0.62, 0.87)].
VPA of 15–20 min/week were associated with a 16–40% lower mortality HR, with further decreases up to 50–57 min/week. These findings suggest reduced health risks may be attainable through relatively modest amounts of VPA accrued in short bouts across the week.
Physical activity volume, intensity and incident cardiovascular disease
The interplay between physical activity (PA) volume and intensity is poorly understood in relation to cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk. This study aimed to investigate the role of PA intensity, over and above volume, in relation to incident CVD.
Methods and results
Data were from 88,412 UK Biobank middle-aged adults (58% women) without prevalent CVD who wore accelerometers on their dominant wrist for 7 days, from which we estimated total physical activity energy expenditure (PAEE) using population-specific validation. Cox proportional hazards regressions modelled associations between PAEE (kJ/kg/day)] and PA intensity [%MVPA; the fraction of PAEE accumulated from moderate-to-vigorous-intensity PA] with incident CVD (ischaemic heart disease or cerebrovascular disease), adjusted for potential confounders. There were 4,068 CVD events during 584,568 person-years of follow-up (median 6.8 years). Higher PAEE and higher %MVPA (adjusted for PAEE) were associated with lower rates of incident CVD. In interaction analyses, CVD rates were 14% (95%CI: 5-23%) lower when MVPA accounted for 20% rather than 10% of 15 kJ/kg/d PAEE; equivalent to converting a 14-min stroll into a brisk 7-min walk. CVD rates did not differ significantly between values of PAEE when the %MVPA was fixed at 10%. However, the lowest CVD rates were observed for combinations of both higher PAEE and %MVPA.
Reductions in CVD risk may be achievable through higher PA volume and intensity, with the role of moderately intense PA appearing particularly important. This supports multiple approaches or strategies to PA participation, some of which may be more practical or appealing to different individuals.