Short burst of exercise as good as a workout

Just an hour of daily exercise in short bursts throughout the day can slash your risk of dying prematurely by 57 per cent, a new study found.

And those who could cram in 100 minutes daily saw their risk cut by 75 per cent.

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Whether swapping the lift for a brisk walk up the stairs or a 10 minute strident walk to the corner shop, these sporadic bouts of exercise are as effective as a sustained exercise session in reducing the risk of death.

People have been bombarded with advice on how much exercise they should do to combat the ill health effects of a sedentary lifestyle.

For instance the NHS recommends adults should be active daily and do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity such as cycling or brisk walking every week combined with strength exercises on two or more days that work all the major muscles.

Or they should do 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, such as running or a game of tennis every week, and twice weekly strength exercises.

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They could also do a mix of moderate and vigorous aerobic activity every week, for example, two 30-minute runs plus 30 minutes of brisk walking equates to 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, and strength exercises.

Risk reductionNow scientists at Duke University School of Medicine in North Carolina said bursts of activity of less than ten minutes over the day were as good in reducing the risk of death and disease.In the study, people who got less than 20 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity each day had the highest risk of death.

Those who got 60 minutes per day cut their risk of death by more than half -- 57 percent.

Getting at least 100 minutes of moderate or vigorous activity per day cut risk of death by 76 percent, the data showed.

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Distinguished professor Dr William Kraus said: "For about 30 years, guidelines have suggested that moderate-to-vigorous activity could provide health benefits, but only if you sustained the activity for 10 minutes or more.

"That flies in the face of public health recommendations, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and parking farther from your destination.

"Those don't take 10 minutes, so why were they recommended?"

Stair liftThe study found even brief trips up and down stairs would count toward accumulated exercise minutes and reducing health risks so long as the intensity reaches a moderate or vigorous level.Moderate exertion was defined as brisk walking at a pace that makes it hard to carry a conversation.

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Boosting that pace to a jog would be vigorous exercise for most people, he added.

He added the findings are good news for most Americans because they typically get their moderate or vigorous exercise in short bouts, and accumulating 30 minutes per day may be more convenient than setting a half-hour block.

Prof Kraus and colleagues from the National Cancer Institute analysed data from 4,840 people aged over 40 who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2003 and 2006.

Participants wore accelerometers to quantify their physical activity and exertion.

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Using a national database, the researchers determined 4,140 participants were still living in 2011.

The most dramatic improvements in the overall risk for death and disease can occur with a relatively small amount of effort, and the more you do, the better the benefits, Kraus said.

Current guidelines by the Us Department of Health and Human Services in 2008 recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week, ideally spread out over several days.

Updated guidelines are expected to be released later this year.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

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