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Low winter motivation? Three minutes of intense activity could save your life

A few quick bursts of intense activity per day significantly lowers risk of premature death, a new study shows

young fitness woman runner running up on mountain stairs

Many of us experience a dip in motivation during the shorter, colder days of the fall and winter months, and find it hard to fit in regular training. A new study out of the University of Sydney reports that people who averaged a few quick bursts of physical activity a day were significantly less likely to die prematurely.

Here’s what you need to know to keep the health benefits rolling in, even if you don’t feel like going for a long run.

Inject some fast walking intervals into a casual stroll. Photo: Liza Summer/Pexels

The study

In an analysis of more than 25,000 middle-aged adults who did not participate in any regular leisure exercise like running, researchers determined that if participants were able to rack up three very short bouts of vigorous activity a day, they had a 39 per cent lower risk of death than those who did no vigorous activity.

University of Sydney’s Professor Mark Hamer, who led the study, shared with the Guardian: “This could be things like playing with children. It could be [that] you see your bus just about to leave so you have to walk extremely quickly to get the bus.”

“It may be that you live in a block of flats and you have to carry that shopping up a flight of stairs,” Hamer adds. “It’s those sorts of little bursts that would happen in everyday life.”

woman walking on trails
Photo: Unsplash/ Emma Simpson

The participants all wore fitness trackers–similar to smartwatches–on their wrists to monitor activity levels throughout the day. While the results seem striking, Hamer says they align with what other research has shown.

“Small-scale trials have shown that very small doses of vigorous intermittent activity can improve cardiorespiratory fitness, a vital predictor of longevity,” he explains.

running in fall leaves
Photo: Instagram/cocofunrunner

The takeaway

What does this mean for runners? It’s a great reminder that anything is better than nothing–substantially better, in fact. If you can’t find the motivation to log your usual mileage, make the effort to get in a few short bursts of intense movement throughout the day.

While your running strength and speed need regular training to improve, if you’re simply looking to stay healthy through the winter, this is reassuring news. Try running up the stairs in your house a few times, racing your kids down the street or adding a few speed-walking intervals to your dog stroll. Make a few minutes a day count, and you’ll still reap remarkable health benefits.

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