These days we are all getting busier than ever. For lots of us, finding the time to squeeze in a decent workout is becoming increasingly difficult. However, significant health benefits can be seen from getting as little as 10 minutes of vigorous exercise a week, a study carried out at the University of Sydney has found.

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The team analysed UK Biobank data recorded on more 70,000 adults aged between 40 and 69 without cancer or cardiovascular disease. Each participant was asked to wear an activity tracker that measured how much they moved over seven consecutive days.

The researchers then followed the participants’ health records for an average of almost seven years looking for associations between the volume and frequency of vigorous activity, and death from all causes, cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Vigorous intensity exercise is defined by the NHS as any activity that makes you breathe hard and fast. Anyone engaging in these activities will not be able to say more than a few words at a time without having to pause to catch their breath. Examples include swimming, riding a bike up a hill and walking up a flight of stairs.

The team found increasing health benefits as the volume and frequency of vigorous activity increased, but significant benefits were seen even with small amounts of exercise.

Participants who undertook no vigorous activity were found to have a 4 per cent risk of dying within five years. This was halved to 2 per cent for those taking 10 minutes per week and halved again to 1 per cent for those taking 60 minutes or more.

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“The results indicate that accumulating vigorous activity in short bouts across the week can help us live longer,” said study author Dr Matthew 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.”

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Authors

Jason Goodyer
Jason GoodyerCommissioning editor, BBC Science Focus

Jason is the commissioning editor for BBC Science Focus. He holds an MSc in physics and was named Section Editor of the Year by the British Society of Magazine Editors in 2019. He has been reporting on science and technology for more than a decade. During this time, he's walked the tunnels of the Large Hadron Collider, watched Stephen Hawking deliver his Reith Lecture on Black Holes and reported on everything from simulation universes to dancing cockatoos. He looks after the magazine’s and website’s news sections and makes regular appearances on the Instant Genius Podcast.

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