Dr. Layne Norton is back with another breakdown of a scientific study, this time concerning how vital working out is for one’s well-being. In the past, he’s covered research on training until failure and debunked the myth of collagen’s effectiveness for muscle growth. Now he’s looking at a UK study published in JAMA Oncology, which featured research showing that small batches of intense exercise — just five minutes — can potentially lead to significant health benefits. (1)
On September 13, 2023, Dr. Norton posted his breakdown of the data set on his YouTube. Watch the video here:
Norton on the Data
The research examined how many minutes of vigorous activity someone needs to reduce their risk of cancer significantly. Dr. Norton described “vigorous activity” as at least a minute of intense exercise, meaning anything from chasing one’s dog to doing a quick set of push-ups.
The study itself involved 22,398 self-reported nonexercising adults from the UK at an average age of 62 years old. The participants wore accelerometers on their wrists over the course of a week to monitor their average rate of physical activity. Around 92.3 percent of participants performed bouts of at least up to a minute of vigorous activity in a day, while 6.2 percent of participants recorded none.
The participants underwent a follow-up with researchers over the next 6.7 years on average, where “2,356 total incident cancer events occurred,” according to the study.
“What they found was the minimum dosage for reducing the risk of cancer was about 3.4 minutes of very intense physical activity,” Dr. Norton says. Specifically, the group saw a nearly 20 percent reduction in the risk of total cancer incidents when engaging in vigorous activity for between three and four minutes a day.
When that data point jumped to 4.5 minutes, the group saw a 30 percent reduction in physical activity-related cancers. (Dr. Emmanuel Stamatakis, who worked on the study, told Healio that physical activity-related cancers include breast, lung, and colorectal cancer.)
Five Minutes Is All It Takes
Dr. Norton hopes studies like this help remove the stigma of fitness having a high barrier to entry. For many people, especially people in the age group the study focused on, short sessions of exercise could be enough. Humans don’t need as much as they think to see exercise benefits. And it doesn’t have to be a continuous workout. It can be small, minute-by-minute bouts of intense exercise that is done consistently throughout the week.
“What it requires is consistent execution on a daily basis,” Dr. Norton says. Essentially, five minutes a day, every day, can have a positive impact on your health. The barrier to entry is low, and this research shows that we might just need a few minutes of activity to remain healthy.
- Stamatakis E, Ahmadi MN, Friedenreich CM, et al. Vigorous Intermittent Lifestyle Physical Activity and Cancer Incidence Among Nonexercising Adults: The UK Biobank Accelerometry Study. JAMA Oncol. Published online July 27, 2023.
Featured Image: Ground Picture / Shutterstock