How to exercise while doing the household chores

Most people aged 40 and over don’t engage in regular exercise or play sport, but it’s not their fault.

Modern life is so horribly demanding, they simply don’t have time to take that daily walk or spend even 10 minutes doing a high-intensity interval workout at the gym.

As we’ve previously reported, science has been investigating ways to shrink down the time it takes to get enough exercise to stop you from dying early.

It has got to the point where there are workouts that take less time than you would spend on changing into your gym clothes.

Which becomes another excuse not to go to the gym.

No more excuses!

A new international study led by the University of Sydney makes use of the busy-ness of life, in such a way that leaves no more excuses against exercising.

The rationale is this – if you’re so busy with the day-to-day chores, then pick up the pace.

By working faster, you’ll save time and save your life. The benefits are similar to those gained from high-intensity interval training.

No time to change into shorts? No problem.

The researchers have termed this strategy as ‘vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity’ or VILPA. Which isn’t very catchy.

What they’re talking about are the very short bouts of vigorous activity (up to one to two minutes) we might do each day.

These could be running for the bus, bursts of power walking while doing errands, or playing high-energy games with the kids.

The researchers found that just three to four one-minute bouts of VILPA every day is “associated with up to 40 per cent reduction in all-cause and cancer-related mortality”.

There was also up to a 49 per cent reduction in death related to cardiovascular disease.

What the researchers say

Lead author Emmanuel Stamatakis, professor of physical activity, lifestyle and population health at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre, in a prepared statement said: “Our study shows similar benefits to high-intensity interval training can be achieved through increasing the intensity of incidental activities done as part of daily living, and the more the better.

“A few very short bouts totalling three to four minutes a day could go a long way, and there are many daily activities that can be tweaked to raise your heart rate for a minute or so.”

Best of all, upping the intensity of daily activities “requires no time commitment, no preparation, no club memberships, no special skills”.

He said it simply involves stepping up the pace while walking or doing the housework.

What happened in the study?

Using wrist-worn tracker data from UK Biobank, a large-scale biomedical database, more than 25,000 participants had their daily activity measured.

These were people who called themselves “non-exercisers”. They did no sport or exercise during their leisure time.

This meant that any activity recorded by this group was incidental physical activity done as part of everyday living.

Health data allowed the researchers to follow the participants over seven years.

The findings

About 89 per cent of all participants did some VILPA. Which suggests that at least 11 per cent of the population never pick up the pace in daily living.

Larger benefits were found with more bouts of incidental activity.

The maximum of 11 bouts per day was associated with a 65 per cent reduction in cardiovascular death risk. There was also a 49 per cent reduction in cancer-related death risk.

A comparative analysis of the vigorous activity of 62,000 people who regularly engaged in exercise found comparable results.

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