Benefits of Brief Intense Exercise

Benefits of Brief Intense Exercise
By Andrew Luer
Category: Exercise

Benefits of Brief Intense Exercise

One area of research that has become increasingly popular over the past decade has been the body of science that confirms what we’ve all pretty much known for our entire adult lives – exercise is good for us. And as a neurologist interested in the impact of lifestyle choices on the brain, I have naturally been drawn to the wide-ranging studies demonstrating a clear connection between physical exercise and brain health, and especially the relationship between exercise and risk reduction for Alzheimer’s disease.

But one question almost always surfaces when we explore the relationship between exercise and various health parameters, and it centers on the type of exercise that a person chooses to pursue. Indeed, there are studies showing how aerobic exercise benefits cardiovascular health, and resistance exercises of various sorts seem helpful for the brain. So, to cover the bases, my recommendations over the years have generally messaged the notion of exercise diversity, meaning cultivating a program that pushed strength training as well as aerobic conditioning.

That said, another common question centers on the amount of exercise we should engage. And like any intervention, the dosage matters as it relates to exercise as well.

With this in mind, I was fascinated by a new study that evaluated the effectiveness of very short bursts (around one  to two minutes) of vigorous activity, several times a day in terms of risk for premature death, particularly from cardiovascular disease. The study, entitled: Association of wearable device-measured vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity with mortality: Association of wearable device-measured vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity with mortality, followed over 25,000 individuals for an average of around 7 years. These folks were generally not involved in any typical exercise program whatsoever. And each of these participants used a wearable device to track their activity during the course of the day.

The results of this study demonstrated that there seemed to be great benefit to experiencing your very short bursts of very vigorous activity several times a day. To be sure, this wasn’t a study that asked the subjects to perform these activities. Rather, these were events that naturally occurred during daily like, like running for a cab or playing with the kids.

Incredibly, engaging in 3 of these events daily was associated with a remarkable 38%-40% reduction in risk of death from any cause as well as death from cancer, and a few 48-49% reduced risk of cardiovascular mortality.

These results open a new door as it relates to experiencing the health benefits of exercise. As the authors stated:

“Individuals who find structured exercise unappealing or infeasible may consider exploring opportunities to introduce brief but regular bouts of VPA into their daily routines.”

But while this research is compelling, I’m going to stick with the notion that as it relates to the type and duration of exercise that offers the greatest health benefits, cultivating diversity remains my recommendation.

Related Topics

Share This


Dr. Perlmutter is one of the leading lights in medicine today, illuminating the path for solving chronic illness

Mark Hyman, MD