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Could short bursts of exercise extend your life?

Exercise is good for you. 

We’ve known this since we were kids, but as busy adults, it’s not always easy to fit it in. And a lot of people simply don’t enjoy working out. But a few recent studies show that you don’t have to kill yourself at the gym to get long term benefits.

Short Exercise Bursts for Longevity

If you love to exercise, good for you! You probably already know its benefits and you can see and feel it in your body. Ultimately, your hard work could pay off. People who exercise tend to live longer lives with less complications. Keep up the great work!

But what about the rest of us? Some people just don’t feel like they have time to get to the gym. Between work and family responsibilities, it isn’t easy. Of course everyone wants to be healthy. And sometimes, it’s not just time, but the simple fact that some of us just don’t like working out. But science says that doesn’t mean that you have to be scheduling daily workouts to reap the benefits.

A Duke University study found that short bursts of energy may have benefits when it comes to life extension. They looked at 5000 people over age 40 and found that one hour per day of moderate to vigorous exercise cut the risk of death in half over 10 years. And the big reveal was that you don’t have to do that exercise all at once- it’s okay to do it in chunks. Even bursts less than five minutes will do the trick! 

What is moderate or vigorous exercise?

With both moderate and vigorous exercise, your heart rate increases. Moderate exercise can be a brisk walking pace. You can still speak in sentences, but may not want to have a conversation. Vigorous exercise is when you are working hard and maybe get words out, but really don’t want to talk at all.

Ways you can get more exercise

There are a lot of simple ways you can work short bursts of exercise into your daily routine. You don’t have to commit to full 5 or 10 minute blocks, but rather do many bursts and they will add up. The great thing about this is that you can do them any time or anywhere. You can incorporate a few reps at your bedside when you wake up or even while brushing your teeth. At work, you can do things at the office (encourage coworkers!). You can work something in while you watch television, cook dinner or play with the kids. The possibilities are endless!

Here are some ideas to add bursts to your daily life:

  • Park further away and walk briskly to your destination.

  • Take the stairs.

  • Take the long way by foot (or bike) if you need to get from point A to point B.

  • Do light push ups on a desk or against the wall every so often. These can be done at home or at work.

  • Do a couple sets of jumping jacks, push ups, or sit ups.

  • You can march in place almost anywhere. This is a great burst to do while cooking dinner or watching tv.

  • Stand up and sit back down a few times.

If you have a gym membership or home equipment but find you don’t have time, you could come up with a combo program where you’ll do short bursts throughout the day plus one longer workout. For example, you might ride your exercise bike for 20 minutes in the morning, but during the day you walk more, take the steps, or do some pushups at the office. This will allow you to get what feels like a “full” workout in and adds the extras in short bursts. 

Getting in Your Steps

Have you ever heard that 10,000 steps per day should be a goal? Surprisingly, 10,000 is just a made up number. No one is really sure where it came from, but someone picked it up and the world ran with it. But now there is a study that gives an actual recommendation of a minimum of 7000 steps to reap longer term health benefits. 

Over 2000 people ages 38-50 were studied over the course of almost 11 years. Results showed that there are more benefits when more steps are taken, but 7000 seemed to be the magic minimum number. The study showed that people who took 7000 steps per day, could cut the risk of death by 50-70% over the next decade! This study shows that there is no difference in gender or race. 

The bigger reveal in this study was that the intensity or speed of the steps made no difference in mortality. In other words, you don’t have to work harder to benefit. Those simple every day steps you take do make an impact! After about 10,000 steps, the benefits were minimal. 

It’s Never too Late to Start!

There is a misconception that if you’ve been exercising for your entire life, that it has a cumulative effect and starting later won’t do any good. It turns out that isn’t true. Researchers looked at how changes in exercise levels over time affects their risk of dying. The study concluded that middle aged and even older adults can gain longevity by becoming more physically active, even if they have a history of heart disease or cancer. 

It’s also been shown that even if you start working out later in life, you have the ability to build muscle. Researchers at the University of Birmingham looked at men over the age of 60 who worked out at least twice a week for 20 years and compared them to people who were working out for the first time after age 60. Upon analyzing the results, they found that there was no difference between the two groups when it came to building muscle.

In other words, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve been exercising for life or are just getting started.

Combine the Knowledge & Start Benefitting Now

Using this information could get you on the right track to a longer, healthier life. You can start with short bursts of exercise, which could be worked into a minimum of 7000 steps per day. Or just do one or the other. And you can start today, no matter your age.

Remember that consistency is key! You can’t just do this for one day and call it good, you need to incorporate these habits every day.

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