OT: A few short bursts of intense exercise --> significantly fewer deaths

I like studies with a very clear signal. Life or death.

I like studies with large data sets. Much more reliable. That’s why research from countries with socialized medicine is so valuable. The information in the U.S. is fragmentary (with a few exceptions).

2-Minute Bursts of Movement Can Have Big Health Benefits

A new study confirms that you don’t have to do a hard workout to reap the longevity rewards of exercise.
By Dani Blum, The New York Times, Dec. 8, 2022

Tiny spurts of exercise throughout the day are associated with significant reductions in disease risk. Researchers used data from fitness trackers collected by UK Biobank, a large medical database with health information from people across the United Kingdom. They looked at the records of over 25,000 people who did not regularly exercise, with an average age around 60, and followed them over the course of nearly seven years. (People who walked recreationally once a week were included, but that was the maximum amount of concerted exercise these participants did.).

Those who engaged in one or two-minute bursts of exercise roughly three times a day, like speed-walking while commuting to work or rapidly climbing stairs, showed a nearly 50 percent reduction in cardiovascular mortality risk and a roughly 40 percent reduction in the risk of dying from cancer as well as all causes of mortality, compared with those who did no vigorous spurts of fitness.

The new study shows that the average person doesn’t need to go out of their way to identify those small spikes in activity; everyday movements, intensified, can be enough. …Movements that are so vigorous you can only speak a few words, or none at all, after 30 seconds or so qualify as “intense.”…[end quote]

Any exercise at all is better than no exercise. But it’s the intense exercise that signals the body that it needs to build muscle and stock it with mitochondria and that helps keep the cardiovascular system clear.

We old folks have to be aware that high-intensity exercise can cause injury. It’s a fine line between getting enough intensity to qualify as “intense” and straining a muscle (or snapping a tendon) doing something we have done 1,000 times before with no problem.

I don’t expect the average person to do an hour a day of Zumba or High Intensity Interval Training, like I do. (To reduce the risk of my cancer recurring.) But the new study shows that even 2 minutes, 3 times a day is enough to get a significant signal.

And the signal is life or death.


Everything has its limits. Ken Cooper, the Father of Aerobics, had an extensive data set on aerobics, exercise, etc. His problem he extrapolated benefits from a few outliers while the majority of the population showed a plateau.

A find it slightly ironic that all the most recent studies seem to be searching for the least amount of exercise a person can do. But some movement or any movement is better than no movement.

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As usual, the actual paper…and thoughtful analysis…don’t quite say what the NYT headline implies. That’s a shocker!



Yep! I’m very active around our home maintaining the yard, landscaping and doing light house maintenance work. Not sure what happened, but one knee is now double the size of the other and quite painful. Extra Strength Tylenol and Aleve are keeping me afloat until I can see an Orthopedic doc next week.

Meanwhile it’s RICE for me (rest, ice, compression and elevation).


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In a general sense, there’s nothing wrong with trying to find the least amount of exercise anyone needs to do…minimum effective dose, if you like. Effective being the operative word, … in that it does need to be adequate.

Something is, of course, better than nothing…because there’s so much “nothingness” about nothing and it irrefutably bad. However, if the something is so minimal that it takes the advanced technology of a physiology lab to measure it…and I tend to think that the amount of exercise implied in the article is exactly that (all other variables being equal)… I seriously doubt it would be adequate to make any practical impact on all cause mortality.

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This is an interesting topic.

It is not the least amount of exercise regardless of how the trainers package it on blogs.

I do HIIT training. It is a ten minute routine for me. I walk on a treadmill for two minutes, run at 6.6 miles per hour for 1 minute, walk for 1.5 minutes, run for 1 minute, walk for 1.5 minutes, run for 1 minute and walk for the last two minutes. The idea is to get winded more by the third run.

The entire concept is exerting oneself. It is hard on the body for young or old people. HIIT training should only be done one or two times per week. The training should between 10 and 20 minutes.

Unless you are a very young athlete harder work in the gym becomes less and less smart as we age for most of us. The joints take a pounding and with them the muscles need to recover.

I lifted weights to build by joints two days ago. The slight inflammation and water retention added one pound of weight the next day. I go easy.

In fact using weight machines in a sort of inverse manner builds the joints. It builds the muscle around the joints. I do that for my knees. Sorry to read above that 38 is having a knee problem. I am protecting my knees from my late 50s onward in the gym.

I do not lift weights for power any longer. Only some weight to maintain muscle mass.

I am back to lose weight fast again using Noom and writing out my diet each morning. After losing 30 lbs I will need to go in the gym and add about four pounds of muscle. 12% of the loss will be muscle when dieting.

The folks here who feel they can not run on a treadmill can do something else. If you change how fast you walk in the above pattern and find you are winded by the end you have succeeded.

Raising the ramp on a treadmill might be more dangerous for older people trying to have a larger quick exertion.

Wendy these studies have been around for a long time. My engineering friend who wont get vaccinated is brilliant at digging up all the health materials on anything. But he is a sucker for the snake oil salesmen pushing vitamins.

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I stopped doing high-impact activity when I was about 35 to protect my knees. It’s possible to get a superb cardio workout with added mind/ nerve system thrown in by doing step (with or without weights as I did in my 30s to early 50s) or Zumba (with or without weights). Both are low-impact but complex so the mind-body connection is forced to work overtime.

I don’t do step anymore because I’m not as fit and also I’m afraid of injury since my balance is off (after I tore the tendons in my ankles). But Zumba is on the floor. Try it with weights if it isn’t enough cardio for you.

Step – I never use 2 risers because it hurts my knees. I used to do an hour of step twice a week.

Zumba – start with a warmup. Be sure to cross the centerline with arms and legs because that enhances neural connections across the corpus callosum.



Depending upon definition of “high impact”, it’s not a given that it’s automatically bad for joints. Even running. For sure, there’s a greater potential for injury with HIT and that’s usually where the problem lies.

Years ago, one of my colleagues (something of a Couchlandrian … of course) was bound and determined to persuade me that running was bad for the joints. Going to the trouble of seeking out and printing abstracts to random studies that appeared to confirm his opinion. Reading the papers in full, almost invariably it was the running associated injuries that were the cause of the problem … oftentimes caused by overtraining, faulty training practices, poor biomechanics etc. Not to mention the near equal number of studies that cropped up whilst looking for the full papers that showed just the opposite … that running as an activity was protective of the joints provided sound training practices and injury free running.


I strengthen my ankles. I loosen up the tendons and then stand on one foot with my eyes closed. Preferably on a cushioned surface. I do a 20 count…other foot and five sets. Strengthens my balance as well.

I have vertigo. My mother has it. She taught me how to overcome it. Laying on a bed along the edge length wise hang my head over the edge as deeply as possible. Use a timer and do 3 minutes of this. Switch sides. After a few sessions the vertigo is gone for many months. It moves the crystals in the inner ears.

My friends kid me I expect to live forever. We have very good longevity in my family. I am younger looking than most people would peg me.

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I had my first bout of vertigo about 3 years ago. I was immobile for days. When I went to my primary, she gave a similar exercise which works like a charm.

Lay on one side and twist my head to look at the ceiling for 30 seconds, sit for 30 seconds, lay on other side and twist my head to look up at the ceiling for 30 seconds, sit for 30 seconds. Rinse and repeat 5 times.

Interestingly, this brings on more vertigo during the exercise, but at the end, it’s gone.

As for being younger looking than my peers, I get asked for identification EVERY SINGLE TIME I buy beer at my grocers and I’m in my 70’s!

OK, I shop at Wegmans and it’s their policy to ask everyone for ID when they buy alcohol. But I’m still flattered.


Now I need to know if those women are lying to me. Shame on them if they are.

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So, I should run, screaming like a banshee, to the mailbox, instead of pedaling my exercise bike for 40 minutes as I watch a “Magnum PI” rerun? I’d probably trip on the uneven pavement in the parking lot and land in the ER again. :slight_smile:

Maybe simply step up the speed on the bike during the commercials?



I’ve found over the years that a comments like this this tend to be more a reflection of the poor fitness level of those who make them … coming as they usually do from connoisseurs of the couch. “I don’t want to run a 4 minute mile” or “I don’t want to get too bulky” are another couple I’ve heard…for all the world as if such feats are that easy.

Interestingly, the majority of my cronies here in Colorado are quite the opposite. I’m good pals with a group of women in our local running/cycling club. I’m among the youngest of the group…and just about the slowest. A couple of them are also regulars at our local Crossfit box and another…who has a few Ironman races under her belt (and the de rigeur ankle tat) recently did a marathon on minimal training as she has a demanding gig as a granny just like me. She qualified for Boston with a time that would’ve got her a spot as a 54 year old rather than a 74 year old. My sorta GRRRLZ.

Although I couldn’t rightly call him a couch potato, even my husband has been somewhat disdainful of my fitness avocation in the past. When it became apparent that my teaching gigs were developing into a bit more than an amusing side hustle, he’d often comment along the lines of “I’d call it a midlife crisis…except you don’t see many 110 year olds walking around”. He’s singing a different song now, mind, and has had to acknowledge that it’s likely my long track record of higher than average level of exercise and corresponding fitness that’s kept me above ground, given my family history of non-longevity.


Out of interest, how did you come up with this figure for 12% muscle loss? Although there’s a lot of individual variability…dependent on dietary strategy, genetics, gender etc…I suspect this might be an underestimation for you if I’m reading your intention correctly and your lose weight fast again approach is via an aggressive dietary deficit alone (and no lifting).

You might have been able to get away with this relatively small loss of muscle mass in, say, your early 20s and with a lot of weight/body fat to lose. The closer to an acceptable/ideal/“healthy” bodyweight (say, for the sake of argument, somewhere south of a BMI of 26-27 or so) the more muscle you lose. I think a figure in excess of 20% (and that’s a conservative estimate) is more likely to be the case once you get “there”. Much harder to rebuild when it’s gone than to enhance what you’ve managed to maintain.


Yes! A researcher not only needs access to the large data sets, but they need to USE the data in those large data sets when making postulating or presenting possible conclusions.

One of the fascinating things about my Apple watch is that they’ve sold quite a lot of them. And they each include various health measurements in their health app. And there is an associated app that runs health studies. While not everyone joins the health studies, they have sufficiently large numbers of sales that if even a small percentage do join the studies, they can collect valuable data.

I choose to join all the applicable health studies (heart, hearing, etc). The only ones I do not join are the ones that require you to be female. And I answer all the questions presented on a regular basis.

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@steve203 yes, that’s exactly the point of the research. Step up the speed on the bike during the commercials until you feel it is “intense” (you wouldn’t be able to talk). Hold that pace for a minute or two then fall back to the normal pace. Repeat a few times during your normal exercise.

Zumba classes use this pacing. I monitor my heart rate using a pulse oximeter. Most of the songs maintain my heart rate in the range of 100-120. But, during the one-hour class, the teacher throws in about 4 songs that raise my heart rate to 135, which isn’t bad for a 69 year old woman. I love the music so it’s no burden to do the intense exercise even though it’s tiring.

It’s the high intensity that signals the body to make more mitochondria. Like California building more power plants as reserve energy to prevent brown-outs during periods of high electric demand.


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True VeeEnn,

But my body felt better putting muscle back on. It is a rough science.

I enjoy exercise. That is not my problem.

@VeeEnn research showed that high-impact exercise in pre-menopausal women [strengthened the bones and reduced the risk of breakage of the hip joint].(Effects of high-impact exercise on bone mineral density: a randomized controlled trial in premenopausal women - PubMed).

Since osteoporosis is a problem in my family I put a lot of effort into preventing it over decades. (Calcium, weight-lifting, aerobics.) But I was also aware that the type of exercise I was doing (dance aerobics, step aerobics) had the potential to mess up my knees big time if done several times a week over decades. So I stopped the high impact in my 30s.

That was a personal choice. Everyone is different. But my knees are still OK (even though my ankles failed). And I have 6 friends my age who have had knee replacements.

And my bone density is still OK even though my younger sister has severe osteoporosis.



Well, here’s the result of my experiment: from rest, pedaled at an indicated 19mph, vs normal cruise of 11mph, for one minute. Slightly increase reparation, not enough to prevent talking. Legs started failing and speed fell off, before I was in any respiratory distress.

I could get winded running, except I twisted a knee at work in the late 70s. If I try running, the knee calls a halt, before I get winded.

New bike does not have a pulse monitor. Old one did. Rarely got it over 110, Usually running 95-105.

Of course, that study was of people who did pretty much nothing but veg on the couch, so the data may not be valid for someone who has exercised for years.


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