Exercising in short bursts may be as good for longevity as doing it all at once

By American Heart Association News

athima tongloom/Moment, Getty Images
(athima tongloom/Moment, Getty Images)

Taking more steps each day may help you live longer, whether those steps occur in short bursts throughout the day or all at once, new research finds.

The preliminary research will be presented Friday at the American Heart Association's virtual Epidemiology, Prevention, Lifestyle & Cardiometabolic Health Conference.

"With the help of wearable devices, more research is indicating that any type of movement is better than remaining sedentary," lead researcher Christopher Moore said in a news release. Moore is a Ph.D. student in epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Adults should get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity, or a combination of both, AHA guidelines say. Moore's study found the more people moved each day, the longer they lived – whether that activity took place during short, sporadic bursts of daily activities, such as climbing stairs or doing housework, or uninterrupted periods of exercise that were 10 minutes or longer.

Popular fitness apps and step counters make it easy to tally steps, so researchers used a wearable step-counting device to compare physical activity levels. The study included nearly 17,000 women over age 60 who were followed for six years.

Short bursts and uninterrupted bouts were both beneficial. Each initial increase of 1,000 steps per day in short bursts was associated with a 28% decrease in death during the follow-up period, with benefits leveling off at about 4,500 steps a day. Those who took more than 2,000 uninterrupted steps daily saw a 32% decrease in death.

"Older adults face many barriers to participating in structured exercise programs, so some may find it more convenient and enjoyable to increase everyday walking behaviors, like parking slightly further from their destination or doing some extra housework or yardwork," he said.

Since all participants were older and mostly non-Hispanic white women, more research is needed to determine if the results apply to men, younger women and people from diverse racial and ethnic groups.

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