NEW DELHI: Short bouts of incidental activity, the kind done as part of daily living and including household chores, has shown to reduce risk of heart attack, stroke and even premature death, new The Lancet Public Health research shows.

However, duration and intensity of the activity matters, the research team from the UK and Australia, led by the University of Sydney, said, having tracked more than 25,000 UK adults over roughly eight years.

“From walking up the stairs to speedily mopping the floors; in recent years we’ve come to understand that it is not just structured exercise that is good for our health, but we know very little about how these short bouts of incidental activity translate to health benefits,” said the study’s senior author Emmanuel Stamatakis, University of Sydney.

The adults studied were aged 42-78, all of whom self-reported no participation in exercise or sport.

The researchers used wrist-worn wearables data from the UK Biobank and machine learning and analysed their seven-day incidental physical activity patterns down to a 10-second time window.

They then compared these physical activity micropatterns with the participants’ health records, by following them for close to eight years to understand the health impacts of the duration and intensity of the physical activity bouts.

The researchers found that nearly all of the entire day’s physical activity, 97 per cent, was accumulated in multiple slots, each lasting less than 10 minutes, with longer slots being better.

“The idea of accruing short bouts of moderate to vigorous activity through daily living activities makes physical activity much more accessible to people who are unwilling or unable to take part in structured exercise,” said Matthew Ahmadi, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Sydney, adding that data showed that the length and intensity of these activities mattered.

Further, ‘moderately’ or ‘vigorously’ intense activity in these slots were associated with a steep decrease in major cardiac events, like heart attack or stroke, and death by any cause, they found.

Also, those who huffed and puffed for at least 10 seconds per minute, or 15 per cent of one physical activity bout or slot, saw the greatest benefit, they found.

“If you are huffing and puffing and unable to hold a conversation for some of that time (in one bout) you have hit the sweet spot,” said Stamatakis.

“The take-home message here is any type of activity is good for your health, but the more effort you put into those daily tasks and the longer you keep up that energy, the more benefits you are likely to reap,” said Stamatakis.

In their study, the authors write, “If verified in future research, our findings could inform future public health messaging targeting the general population raising awareness of potential health benefits from short physical activity bouts in everyday life, especially for adults who do not or cannot exercise.”

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