Short bursts of vigorous activity linked to longer living

Couple concept of longevity, vitality and fitness

According to new research, two-minute bursts of vigorous activity that total just 15 minutes per week are associated with increased longevity.

Two-minute bursts of vigorous activity totaling 15 minutes per week are associated with a lower risk of death.

Bursts of vigorous activity lasting two minutes at a time totaling only 15 minutes per week are associated with a lower risk of death. This is according to new research published on October 27 in the Official Gazette European Heart Journal, Journal of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).[1]

“The results suggest that accumulating vigorous activity in short periods throughout the week can help us live longer,” said study author Dr Matthew Ahmadi of the University of Sydney in Australia. “Because lack of time is the most common barrier to regular physical activity, accumulating small amounts intermittently during the day may be a particularly attractive option for busy people.”

A second study found that for a given amount of physical activity, increased intensity was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. This study was also published October 27 in European Heart Journal.[2] Study author Dr. Paddy C. Dempsey from the University of Leicester and the University of Cambridge in the UK and The Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, Melbourne, Australia said.

Both studies included adults aged 40 to 69 years from the UK Biobank, a biomedical database and extensive research resource. Participants wore an activity tracker on their wrist for seven consecutive days. This is an objective method for measuring movement and is a particularly good way to measure intermittent activity at different intensities during the day.

“Our study shows that it is not only the amount of activity, but also its intensity, that is important for cardiovascular health.” – Dr. Buddy C Dempsey

71,893 adults without cardiovascular disease or cancer were enrolled in the first study. The average age of the participants was 62.5 years and 56% of them were women. The researchers measured the total amount of active weekly activity and the frequency of episodes lasting two minutes or less. Participants were followed for an average of 6.9 years. After excluding events that occurred in the first year, the researchers analyzed the associations of the magnitude and frequency of vigorous activity with death (all-cause, cardiovascular disease, and cancer), cardiovascular disease incidence, and cancer.

The risk of all five negative outcomes decreased with increased volume and frequency of active activity, with benefits observed even in small amounts. For example, participants without vigorous activity had a 4% risk of dying within five years. The risk was halved to 2% with less than 10 minutes of vigorous weekly activity, and decreased to 1% with 60 minutes or more.

Compared to just two minutes of vigorous activity per week, 15 minutes was associated with an 18% lower risk of death and a 15% lower risk of cardiovascular disease, while 12 minutes was associated with a 17% lower risk of cancer. More gains were observed with greater amounts of active activity. For example, approximately 53 minutes per week was associated with a 36% lower risk of death from any cause.

Regarding frequency, accumulating short periods (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 seen even at lower frequencies: 10 short bouts per week were associated with a 16% and 17% lower risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer, respectively.

The second study included 88,412 adults free of cardiovascular disease. The median age was 62 years and 58% of the women. The researchers estimated the magnitude and intensity of physical activity, and then analyzed their associations with incident cardiovascular disease (ischemic heart disease or cerebrovascular disease). Participants were followed for an average of 6.8 years.

The researchers found that both higher amounts and greater intensity were associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease. Increasing intensity led to a greater reduction in cardiovascular disease for the same volume of exercise. For example, the incidence of cardiovascular disease was 14% lower when moderate to vigorous activity represented 20% instead of 10% of activity, which is equivalent to turning a 14-minute walk 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 risk of cardiovascular disease. Raising the intensity was also particularly important, while increasing both was optimal. This suggests that increasing the intensity of the activities you do Indeed, it is good for heart health. For example, you can speed up your daily walk to the bus stop or complete household chores more quickly.”


  1. Vigorous physical activity, heart disease and cancer: what little is enough? By Matthew N. Ahmadi, Philip J. Claire, Peter T. Katzmarczyk, Borja del Pozo Cruz, I-Min Lee and Emmanuel Stamatakis, Oct 27, 2022, European Heart Journal.
    DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehac572
  2. “Amount and Intensity of Physical Activity and Incidence of Cardiovascular Disease” by Paddy C. Dempsey, Alex V. Rowlands, Tessa Strain, Francesco Zaccardi, Nathan Dawkins, Cameron Raze, Melanie J. Davies, Camlish Conti, Charlotte L. Edwardson, Catherine Wegendale, Soren Bragg and Tom Yates, October 27, 2022, European Heart Journal.
    DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehac613
  3. “The Hare and the Tortoise: Physical Activity Intensity and Scientific Translation” by Charles E. Matthews and Pedro F. San Maurice, Oct 27, 2022 Available here. European Heart Journal.
    DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehac626

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