Countless explorers have searched for the fountain of youth, kings have sought to live forever, and people today do whatever it takes to look and feel younger, but what if you could increase your longevity by doing something for about 13 minutes daily. Would you do it? Well you may be able to add three years to your life and reduce your risk of death through participating in about 13 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per day.(1)
While Americans are advised to get 150 minutes (about 21 minutes daily, seven days per week), it may not take that much to increase longevity and reduce all causes of death according to a 2011 study published in The Lancet. To determine the longevity benefits (not the health benefits) of 150 minutes of physical activity per week researchers evaluated more than 416,000 Taiwanese individuals from 1996 to 2008 (average follow-up of 8.05 years). The amount of weekly exercise was recorded by self-administered questionnaires and then individual’s activity levels were categorized as: inactive, or low, medium, high, or very high activity.
What researchers found was that even those in the low-volume activity group who exercised for 92 minutes per week reduced their risk of all causes of death by 14 percent and increased their life expectancy by three years when compared to the inactive group. Those who exercised for an additional 15 minutes per day further decreased their risk of all causes of death by 4 percent and cancer mortality by 1 percent. Inactive individuals had a 17 percent increased risk of mortality compared to the low-activity group.
With the busy schedules and sedentary lifestyles of many people, making time for the recommended 150 minutes of exercise can be a daunting task. However, the results of this study suggests that even minimal exercise – as little as 15 minutes per day – can have a significant impact on your overall health, with increasing returns with longer exercise intervals.
If 15 minutes seems like too long to commit to then you’ll love what other researchers discovered. They found that it only takes 60 seconds of strenuous (high-intensity) exercise daily to get the same physiological effects (improved health and fitness) as 45 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (traditional interval training).(2) Participants committed 10 minutes to exercise that involved three 20-second sprints on a bike, separated by two minutes of low-intensity cycling. A 2-minute warmup and 3-minute cool-down session were also included, equaling 10 minutes total exercise time.
It is remarkable, but not surprising to those of us who have been advocating high-intensity interval training for years, that 10 minutes equates to 45 minutes of steady-state cardio training. While the authors didn’t evaluate longevity as part of the study, the improved cardiovascular indices do suggest the possibility of an increased healthy lifespan.
Personally, I have been using high-intensity interval training (or metabolic resistance training) for years because of the fantastic benefits achieved with this style of activity. Essentially, you have periods of near maximum effort (say 1 minute) followed by short periods (15 seconds) of rest or light activity like jogging in place completed as a series or circuit. This style of exercise has vast benefits to human health as I report in my book TransforwmWise.Wen CP, Man Wai JP, Tsai MK, et al. Minimum amount of physical activity for reduced mortality and extended life expectancy: a prospective cohort study. 2011 Oct;378(9798):1244-53.
(1) Wen CP, Man Wai JP, Tsai MK, et al. Minimum amount of physical activity for reduced mortality and extended life expectancy: a prospective cohort study. 2011 Oct;378(9798):1244-53.
(2) Gillen JB, Martin BJ, MacInnis MJ, et al. Twelve Weeks of Sprint Interval Training Improves Indices of Cardiometabolic Health Similar to Traditional Endurance Training despite a Five-Fold Lower Exercise Volume and Time Commitment. PLoS One. 2016 Apr 26;11(4):e0154075.