Even Tiny Bouts of Exercise Throughout the Day May Add Up to Health Benefits

According to the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, you should be getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise per week in accumulated bouts of activity lasting ten minutes. However, research has found that the total amount of exercise you get may be more important than the length of any individual episode of activity to reduce your risk of death from any cause. The study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association and included data from 4,840 people, age 40 or older, participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003–2006. Participants wore an accelerometer around their waist for up to seven days to track their total daily exercise, bouts of exercise lasting five minutes or longer, and bouts of exercise lasting ten minutes or longer. Researchers then monitored death records of the participants for more than six years to assess how physical activity affected mortality. After controlling for factors including age, gender, weight, and smoking and alcohol habits, researchers found that:

  • Regardless of how the physical activity was accumulated, getting more exercise in total was associated with lower mortality risk.
  • The risk reduction from physical activity plateaued at 100 minutes per day: no mortality benefit was seen with more than this amount of activity.

This study suggests that if you have a hard time fitting in longer exercise sessions, like a 30-minute daily walk, you could still benefit from quick bouts of exercise; for example, try taking the stairs up to your office or parking at the far end of the parking lot and walking to your destination. Staying active has also been associated with better immunity, cognitive function, and mood management. So, get moving to extend your life and stay healthy as you age!

Source: Journal of the American Heart Association

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