The start of a new year is a time of reflection on the previous year, a time of anticipation of the year ahead and choices about what to change in the coming weeks and months. For many, exercise is part of that change. But we’ve all seen the parking lots at our local gyms and fitness centers. By the end of January the crowds are thinning out and by mid-February things are back to “normal” attendance. People stop committing the time to exercise once the holiday lull is over and life picks back up to normal pace again. Many state they just don’t have time to exercise. So the question is, “how much exercise do I really need to do to improve my health?”
It shouldn’t be news to anyone at this point that physical activity is good for us and our health. However, there are so many guidelines and recommendations online from different organizations that it can be confusing to know what to do and how much to do. The American Heart Association states that adults should aim for “at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both, preferably spread throughout the week. Add moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity (such as resistance or weights) on at least 2 days per week.” Despite this, a majority of adults fail to meet this recommendation. For many, the time commitment isn’t appealing or feasible.
In a recent Nature Medicine journal article, researchers looked at the health outcomes and associations of mortality of short bouts (1-2 minutes) of “vigorous-intensity physical activity done as part of daily living, such as bursts of very fast walking…or stair climbing.” The study analyzed death rates due to cardiovascular disease (CVD), cancer, and all causes. What they found was those who completed a minimum of 1-2 minutes of vigorous physical activity (VPA) per day saw significant reductions in all-cause death and cancer death rates (24-26% lower risk) and a reduced risk of CVD death by 33%, compared with those not doing any VPA. Increasing VPA to 3-4 minutes per day found a 38-40% decrease in cancer and all-cause death risk and a 48-49% reduction in CVD death risk. They found the mortality risk decreased with increasing amounts of VPA.
So what does this mean? Everyone should work to improve their health and quality of life. However, this study shows that not everyone has to be an athlete or a “gym rat” to be healthy! If you don’t like exercising, don’t want to go to a gym, don’t like the thought of getting sweaty several times per week, and would prefer to binge-watch your favorite show in the new year, you can still improve your overall health and decrease your risk of death by doing 2 minutes of VPA per day! Park at the back of the parking lot and briskly walk into work or the store and back out and you’ll have it covered! This study proves that small changes really can add up to big, lasting changes! So start small and shoot for 2 minutes a day of vigorous physical activity! Your body will thank you!