Just a few minutes of vigorous activity each day can reduce the risk of some cancers by up to 32 percent, according to new research.
Just 4.5 minutes of intense physical activity each day can help reduce the risk of some cancers, according to a new study published last week.
Published in Jama Oncology journal and led by researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia, the study tracked the daily activity of more than 22,000 “non-exercisers” and monitored them for nearly seven years.
Emmanuel Stamatakis, a professor at the University of Sydney and lead author of the study, said that while adults who do not exercise have been shown to have a greater risk of developing some cancers, researchers have not previously measured the impact of less structured forms of intense training.
“We know that the majority of middle-aged people do not exercise regularly, putting them at increased risk of cancer, but it is only through the advent of wearable technology such as activity trackers that we are able to look at the impact of short bursts of casual physical activity done as part of daily life,” he said in a statement.
The researchers excluded study participants who had a history of cancer and observed their activity through wearable wrist devices that measure movement.
They also limited the study to people who did not exercise in their spare time and who took one or fewer recreational walks per week. The average age of the participants was 62 years.
The short bursts of activity may include intense housework, power walking or stair climbing.
The researchers found that the benefits increased with more bouts of physical activity, especially for cancers associated with physical activity. Most of the short bursts lasted up to a minute.
Among the participants, there were 2,356 new cancer events.
A limitation of the study is that it is observational and therefore did not directly explore cause and effect. This is common for studies linking cancer and physical activity among participants.
Physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of 13 types of cancer, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The University of Sydney study looked at these types as well as participants’ overall reduction in cancer risk.
The WHO currently recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity or at least 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity activity.
According to US National Cancer Institutephysical activity may be associated with lower cancer risk because exercise limits inflammation, prevents high blood levels, and helps prevent obesity, among other causes.
“We need to investigate this link further through robust trials, but it appears that VILPA (vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity) may be a promising, free recommendation to lower cancer risk in people who find structured exercise difficult or unappealing,” Stamatakis said.