Short bursts of daily activity are associated with reduced cancer risk
The study, which was headed by the University of Sydney in Australia and was published in JAMA Oncology, tracked the daily activity of more than 22,000 "non-exercisers" using data from wearable devices.
SYDNEY: A total of just 4.5 minutes of intense activity that causes you to huff and puff while performing everyday tasks, according to a promising new study, may lower your chance of developing various malignancies by up to 32 per cent.
The study, which was headed by the University of Sydney in Australia and was published in JAMA Oncology, tracked the daily activity of more than 22,000 "non-exercisers" using data from wearable devices. The clinical health records of the group were then monitored by researchers for nearly seven years in order to check for cancer.
As few as four to five minutes of vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity or ‘VILPA’ was associated with a substantially lower cancer risk compared to those who undertook no VILPA.
Vigorous Intermittent Lifestyle Physical Activity, or VILPA for short, was coined by researchers at the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre to describe the very short bursts of activity—around one minute each—we do with gusto each day. This includes activities like vigorous housework, carrying heavy shopping around the grocery store, bursts of power walking or playing high-energy games with the kids.
“VILPA is a bit like applying the principles of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) to your everyday life,” said lead author Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis of the Charles Perkins Centre.
He said adults who don’t exercise are at increased risk of developing certain cancers like breast, endometrial or colon, but until recently the impact of less structured forms of vigorous physical activity was unable to be measured.
“We know the majority of middle-aged people don’t regularly exercise which puts them at increased cancer risk but it’s only through the advent of wearable technology like activity trackers that we are able to look at the impact of short bursts of incidental physical activity done as part of daily living,” said first author Professor Stamatakis.
“It’s quite remarkable to see that upping the intensity of daily tasks for as little as four to five minutes a day, done in short bursts of around one minute each, is linked to an overall reduction in cancer risk by up to 18 percent, and up to 32 percent for cancer types linked to physical activity.” The study is observational, meaning it isn’t designed to directly explore cause and effect. However, the researchers say they are seeing a strong link and refer to previous early-stage trials showing that intermittent vigorous physical activity leads to rapid improvements in cardio-respiratory fitness, which may provide a possible biological explanation for reduced cancer risk. Other likely contributors include physical activity’s role in improving insulin sensitivity and chronic inflammation.
“We need to further investigate this link through robust trials, but it appears that VILPA may be a promising cost-free recommendation for lowering cancer risk in people who find structured exercise difficult or unappealing,” said Professor Stamatakis.