To Your Health
January, 2023 (Vol. 17, Issue 01)
3 Minutes a Day
By Editorial Staff
If you struggle to find time and/or inspiration to reach your daily, weekly – and plain old anytime – physical activity goals, listen up: It doesn't have to take as much time and effort as you think to make a big difference.
The difference we're talking about: living longer and healthier. The time and effort required: as few as three minutes a day.
New research suggests short bursts of activity throughout the day matter; in fact, as few as three minutes daily can reduce mortality risk by a whopping 40 percent, even if that's the extent of your physical exertion. Researchers tracked 25,000+ adults (average age: 62 years at the start of the study) for approximately seven years, using wearable sensors to assess how "brief bursts of vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity" correlated with all-cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality. All participants were classified as "non-exercisers," meaning they did not get any leisure-time physical activity outside of the short bursts (three 1-2 minute bouts daily) dictated by the study.
Compared with people who did not participate in any activity bursts, those who did (average time spent daily: 4.4 minutes) reduced their risk of all-cause and cancer mortality risk by 38-40 percent, with a 48-49 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease mortality risk. Findings appear in Nature Medicine. A separate sample of "exercisers" achieved similar results in terms of mortality / disease risk, suggesting the benefits apply to everyone, regardless of their physical activity habits.
It's important to point out that study participants' activity wasn't what you might think (and dread doing yourself), such as slaving away on a treadmill or hitting the gym to lift weights. They performed "brief bursts of vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity" – things like walking fast from the parking lot to work; or jogging up stairs instead of just walking. Talk to your doctor for more ways you can incorporate physical activity into your day – as few as three minutes – and reap the profound health benefits.