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Public health

Brief, intense exercise reduces risk of death

Climbing stairs or walking briskly can benefit health

Eduardo Cesar / Revista Pesquisa FAPESP

A minute or two of intense physical activity a few times a day can substantially reduce the risk of death. A study led by Emmanuel Stamatakis of the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney, Australia, analyzed data from 25,241 participants available from UK Biobank, a large biomedical database. Volunteers were 62 years old on average, did not regularly exercise, and were asked to wear wrist accelerometers, small devices used to measure changes in movement speed. The researchers found that those who performed vigorous physical activity three times a day, such as a brisk walk to the bus stop or climbing several flights of stairs, had a 40% lower risk of dying from cancer and other general causes and were 49% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease (Nature Medicine, December 8). The scientists point out that since this form of physical activity requires minimal time and requires no specific preparation, it may be more viable for most adults than structured exercise.