Just 3-4 minutes of vigorous daily physical activity can cut cardio-related death risk in half

Ever heard of VILPA?

It stands for Vigorous Intermittent Lifestyle Physical Activity. And according to recent research, reported here, just three to four minutes of it per day can cut the risk of all-cause and cancer-related death by 40%, and cardiovascular death by 49%.

VILPA consists of a high-energy burst of vigorous activity, carried out by elevating the intensity of incidental activities. With VILPA, you run for the bus, you power-walk instead of walking at a leisurely pace, you play high energy games with children or grandchildren. Its effects were studied by researchers at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre.

The researchers used wrist-worn tracker data from the UK Biobank, a large-scale biomedical database. From the article: “Researchers measured the activity of over 25,000 ‘non-exercisers’, individuals who self-reported not participating in sports or exercise in leisure time. In this way, the researchers concluded that any physical activity recorded by this group was incidental to everyday life. Over the next seven years, the team tracked participants’ health data.”

The researchers took certain statistical measures to minimize the chances of results being explained by differences in the participants’ underlying health status.

Key findings:

  • Almost all participants did some form of VILPA
  • The average VILPA bout lasted one minute
  • Compared to those without VILPA, those who performed four to five bouts daily showed the steepest gains
  • The more VILPA, the better
  • Compared to no VILPA, a maximum of 11 bouts per day reduced cardiovascular death risk by 65% and cancer-related death risk by 49%

What you’re doing with VILPA, the researchers pointed out, is achieving the benefits of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) by “elevating the intensity of incidental activities performed as part of daily life.”

This doesn’t mean, of course, that full workouts, whether at a gym or at home, aren’t also a great idea. But it does underscore — and we’ve written about this in our book — how easy it is to “upgrade” routine physical activities in order to promote significant boosts to longevity. Check out what we have to say about “Exercise Snacks” on p. 96-97 of our book!

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