A recent research study conducted by the University of Sydney suggests that engaging in just 4.5 minutes of vigorous activity daily, in short bursts lasting around one minute each, can potentially reduce the risk of certain cancers by up to 32 per cent. This form of physical activity, known as Vigorous Intermittent Lifestyle Physical Activity (VILPA), involves tasks like housework, carrying heavy shopping, power walking, or playing high-energy games with children.
Lead author Professor Emmanuel Stamatakis from the Charles Perkins Centre likens VILPA to applying the principles of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) to everyday life. The study, published in JAMA Oncology, tracked the daily activity of over 22,000 ‘non-exercisers’ using wearable devices for a period of seven years, monitoring 13 cancer sites associated with physical activity.
Remarkably, the study found that incorporating short bursts of intense activity, totalling just four to five minutes a day was associated with an overall reduction in cancer risk by up to 18 percent. For cancer types linked to physical activity, the risk reduction reached up to 32 per cent.
While the study is observational and does not establish a direct cause-and-effect relationship, the researchers highlight a strong link. Earlier trials have shown that intermittent vigorous physical activity leads to rapid improvements in cardio-respiratory fitness, which could explain the reduced cancer risk. Additionally, physical activity may improve insulin sensitivity and reduce chronic inflammation, contributing to the protective effect against cancer.
The researchers emphasize that further robust trials are needed to explore this link thoroughly. However, VILPA shows promise as a cost-free recommendation for reducing cancer risk, particularly for individuals who find structured exercise challenging or unappealing. Regular physical activity remains a crucial strategy for preventing cancer, given its direct physiological benefits and its role in helping maintain a healthy weight.