A January study published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism suggests that even extremely short but intense bursts of exercise can offer benefits for cardiovascular health.
In the small study, healthy but sedentary young adults climbed three flights of stairs three times a day three days a week for six weeks. The study subjects warmed up before and cooled down after, and were told to climb the stairs as fast and safely as they could, one step at a time.
After six weeks, they saw their cardiorespiratory (aerobic) fitness improve by 5 percent and showed 12 percent more power during a cycling test.
These effects aren’t just found among young people. A study released in February by the journal Hypertension found that in a small group of sedentary, overweight or obese adults between 55 and 80 years old, just 30 minutes of walking in the morning kept blood pressure lower, on average, throughout the day. The effect was more pronounced in women when they also took short (3 minute) walking breaks every half-hour.
Another example of how even a little activity can do a body good comes from a 13-year study whose results were published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, where researchers tracked more than 139,000 adults. The greatest benefits came from meeting (or exceeding) the exercise recommendations, but those who fit in just 2 hours of walking per week were 26 percent less likely to die early than sedentary people.
And a study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that older adults who exercised less than 30 minutes per day cut their risk of cardiovascular disease by 14 percent compared with inactive people.