Just 15 minutes of intense exercise per week can help to cut the risk of an early death by nearly a fifth, according to new research.
The study, involving more than 70,000 Britons aged between 40 and 60, found that those who completed just two minutes of vigorous physical activity every day were 18 per cent less likely to die.
They were also found to be 15 per cent less likely to develop cardiovascular disease, researchers from the University of Sydney found.
Participants wore an activity tracker on their wrist for seven consecutive days and researchers measured their weekly physical activity and the frequency of bouts lasting two minutes or less. None of the adults involved had cardiovascular disease or cancer at the time of the study.
Four bouts of vigorous exercise of up to two minutes every day was associated with a 27 per cent lower risk of death, the study found.
Adults should aim to undertake 150 minutes of moderately intense activity (such as a brisk walk) or 75 minutes of intense activity (such as running) per week, according to NHS guidance.
In a separate study using the same data-set of people, researchers found that turning moderate exercise into vigorous physical activity in middle age also reduced the risk of death.
The rate of cardiovascular disease was found to be 14 per cent lower when moderate-to-vigorous exercise was doubled — the equivalent of turning a 14-minute stroll into a brisk seven minute walk.
Dr Matthew Ahmadi, of the University of Sydney, said: “The results indicate that accumulating vigorous activity in short bouts across the week can help us live longer.
“Given that lack of time is the most commonly reported barrier to regular physical activity, accruing small amounts sporadically during the day may be a particularly attractive option for busy people.”
Study author Dr Paddy Dempsey, from the University of Leicester and the University of Cambridge, said the “intensity” of the exercise was important for cardiovascular health.
He said: “Our results suggest that increasing the total volume of physical activity is not the only way to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease.
“Raising the intensity was also particularly important, while increasing both was optimal. This indicates that boosting the intensity of activities you already do is good for heart health. For example, picking up the pace on your daily walk to the bus stop or completing household chores more quickly.”
Both studies were published in the European Heart Journal on Thursday.