Can 60 Seconds of Exercise Increase Your Longevity?
Staying Fit
January 24, 2024
Can 60 Seconds of Exercise Increase Your Longevity?

If you’re looking for a way to fit exercise into your day but struggle to find any length of time that feels substantial enough for a worthwhile workout, you may think you’re out of luck. But what if we told you all you needed was one minute? Yep, 60 seconds. Sounds too good to be true?

Well, a robust research dataset, published in 2017, backs up the claim that getting your heart pumping for even a minute makes a difference. To gather the data, researchers had more than 100,000 people wear a fitness tracker that monitored their physical activity for two and a half years. They then followed up with the participants seven to nine years later, noting how many people had passed away or navigated health issues, such as cancer, cardiac events, etc. in the time that had passed.

While researchers were able to pull a plethora of insight from the data, one finding supports that short bursts of cardiac activity and longevity seem to go hand-in-hand. What’s more, researchers from the University of Sydney combed over the data and determined that around 1/4th of the participants didn’t intentionally exercise. However, among these non-exercisers, fitness trackers picked up that they still engaged in “lifestyle activity” in brief periods throughout the day. This includes activities like climbing stairs, gardening, walking to the store, playing with kids and grandkids, and more. These short bursts tended to last from one to ten minutes, and the intensity ranged from moderate to vigorous, meaning it was challenging to hold a conversation while doing the activity.

It's this moderate to vigorous activity that was the key to increasing longevity. The researchers from the University of Sydney eventually shared their findings, revealing that engaging in three to four one-minute exercise sessions per day could decrease the risk of premature death by up to 40 percent. Specifically, the risk of cardiovascular-related deaths saw a reduction of up to 49 percent.

In a subsequent study published in The Lancet in October 2023, the researchers delved into how varying durations of these short bursts affected mortality. The results indicated that even just one minute of lifestyle-type exercise (up to 10 minutes) was associated with a decreased risk of heart attack and stroke by 29 to 44 percent, with longer durations showing more significant benefits.

In essence, the key message is this: Engaging in activities that elevate your heart rate to a moderate or vigorous level, making it a bit challenging or difficult to hold a conversation, for as short as just one minute a day, can contribute positively to your long-term heart health and overall longevity.

This research confirms what we already know about the beneficial properties of short bursts of physical activity. However, according to Kayla Reed, a certified personal trainer and fitness center manager at Texas Health Fitness Center Prosper, this data places even more emphasis on the benefit of multiple, shorter-length workouts, especially as it applies to providing a more convenient way to prioritize your health while juggling family, work, and other obligations.

“Typically, it is more convenient and appealing for people to complete 10-minute workouts when they are occupied during the day,” she explains. “This allows a better chance for you to not be interrupted and it may be easier to complete the workout you’re participating in.”

Anna Small, a certified family nurse practitioner on the medical staff at Texas Health Family Care, a Texas Health Physicians Group practice, seconds Reed’s insight, adding that mini-workouts aren’t just beneficial for people on the go or short on time; they can also be beneficial for those just starting out on their fitness journeys.

“The recommended 150-300 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise can feel like an insurmountable goal,” she says. “Some may achieve this temporarily and burn out because they are unable to sustain it, while others will not even attempt to begin an exercise program because it seems unattainable.

“You can have smaller spurts of daily activity that will provide better endurance and the ability to gradually increase movement instead of a grueling, prolonged workout. By breaking up the physical activity/movement into smaller chunks of time it is more sustainable and enjoyable because of a sense of achievement and accomplishment.”

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), recently launched a website, Move Your Way, to provide tips for increasing movement for both adults and children, along with tips for parents. Regular physical activity has the benefit of not only improving physical health but mental health as well, including boosting mood, sharpening focus, reducing stress and improving sleep.

Small says that even smaller bouts of physical activity add up, so people shouldn’t be worried that they don’t have the time or stamina to put in an hour-long workout to achieve their movement goals.

“The long-term benefits of getting moving at multiple intervals provide similar health effects to a single, continuous 30-minute bout of moderate exercise,” she says. “The bottom line is JUST MOVE! This may be only two to three minutes per day in the beginning. That’s okay … just keep moving. It’s okay to go slow, but go, go, go! Increase your spurts of activity gradually and you can reap a multitude of physical and mental benefits.”

As for planning those micro workouts, Reed says you don’t have to overthink it. Look around at the resources around you and become creative. That can include heading outside for a brisk walk, incorporating the stairs into your workout, utilizing the wall for wall-sits, using your desk for incline push-ups, etc.

The American Heart Association also provides tips and ideas to increase daily movement, including the following activities:

  • Walking
  • Water aerobics
  • Dancing
  • Gardening
  • Tennis
  • Riding a bicycle
  • Hiking
  • Running
  • Swimming
  • Jumping rope

“There are so many things around us that can help play a part in staying in shape,” Reed adds.

The Takeaway

So, yes, while it may seem too good to be true, short, one-minute workouts can help increase your longevity and help with cardiovascular health, and it may even start up the desire for an even longer exercise routine down the line.

“The days of being in a gym for hours at a time or dreading a long, intense workout are not necessary,” Small says. “You can improve your health with just incremental bursts of movement that won’t cause burnout because YOU choose your activities and how to implement them daily. I challenge you to get motivated, get inspired, get a partner and GET MOVING TODAY!”

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