Doing short bursts of activity, such as playing high energy games with children, might help lower the risk of cancer, new research suggests.
Just four-and-a-half minutes of vigorous activity done in one minute bursts could reduce the risk of cancer by 18%, the study says, adding it could be a reduction of up to 32% for cancers linked to physical activity.
Activity could include carrying heavy shopping, bursts of power walking or even the housework.
Lead author professor Emmanuel Stamatakis, of the Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney, said: “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.
“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%, and up to 32% for cancer types linked to physical activity.”
Those types of cancer linked to physical activity, such as liver, lung, kidney, gastric cardia and myeloid leukaemia, are where lack of exercise increases the risk of developing the condition.
The study, which was published in Jama Oncology, used information from wearable devices to look at the activity of more than 22,000 people who did not exercise.
The group’s health records were then monitored for around seven years to look out for cancer.
Researchers found as few as four minutes of vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity (Vilpa), was linked to lower cancer risks than those that did not do that type of activity.
The phrase Vilpa was developed by researchers at the Charles Perkins Centre as a way of describing the short bursts of exercise done each day.
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Prof Stamatakis said: “Vilpa is a bit like applying the principles of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) to your everyday life.”
Among the 22,398 people in the study, with an average age of 62 who did not exercise, 2,356 new cases of cancer were found (1,084 exercise-related cancers) over an average follow-up of 6.7 years.
On average, 3.5 minutes of Vilpa was associated with up to an 18% reduction in cancer incidence, while 4.5 minutes was linked to a 32% reduction in the risk of cancers linked to exercise.
Data from the UK Biobank Accelerometry Sub Study was studied, and only included people who reported no leisure time exercise and no regular recreational walks.