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People who regularly engaged in vigorous-intensity exercise were less like to die from cancer, cardiovascular disease, or other causes, according to a new study. Engaging in vigorous-intensity exercise for as little as 54 minutes per week provides optimal mortality reduction – but the catch is that it must be sufficiently vigorous.
Using wrist-worn accelerometers, nearly 72,000 middle-aged adults enrolled in the UK Biobank study tracked their activity. Researchers monitored the participants' health for approximately six years.
They found that the participants' risk of dying during the study period varied based on their activity level. The risk of dying among those engaging in no vigorous-intensity activity per week was 4.17 percent; zero to less than 10 minutes, 2.12 percent; 10 to less than 30 minutes, 1.78 percent; 30 to less than 60 minutes, 1.47 percent; and for 60 minutes or more, 1.10 percent. They determined that the “optimal” dose of vigorous-intensity activity was approximately 54 minutes per week, and the “minimal” dose – sufficient to reduce the risk of dying from cancer, cardiovascular disease, or all other causes – was approximately 15 minutes.
Vigorous-intensity exercise is defined as activity that achieves a heart rate that is 70 to 80 percent of one’s maximum. High-intensity interval training, often referred to as HIIT, is a popular form of vigorous exercise involving short bursts of intense aerobic exercise interspersed with periods of rest or lower-intensity exercise. During a typical HIIT session, exercisers typically achieve 80 to 100 percent of their VO2max (a measure of respiratory function) or maximum heart rate. Most HIIT workouts are brief, lasting just 15 to 30 minutes.
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