12 Minutes of Exercise Improves Health

This summer we got a puppy. And the interesting thing about puppies is that they don’t really have a concept of time.

I could come in at the end of the day and the puppy is excited to see me, wagging her tail and weaving in between my legs for contact and comfort. The same reaction could happen if I’m working in another room for a bit and rejoin the puppy and family wherever they are. The puppy doesn’t distinguish between an 8 hour or a 20 minute absence.

Our kids are a little smarter than the dog, although sometimes I wonder? And they have a slightly better concept of time. But they will still ask to go outside and play with their friends minutes before we’re due to head out the door for a family function. Or after pajamas and brushing their teeth they’ll ask if we can start a movie.

But puppies and kids can be excused if they don’t know time or how long things should take. Adults however know what an hour is, how long things take and how to manage their day.

When it comes to exercise a common challenge is making the time to be active. We might assume that for a health goal to be realized requires a certain amount of daily fitness to achieve it. Intuitively I would guess most people think they need to exercise an hour a day.

Now there’s nothing wrong with training an hour daily. And if you’re already in the habit than definitely keep going. But for those that aren’t that active and haven’t gotten started yet because they haven’t carved out those 60 minutes per day, a new study should give them hope.

The study was part of the Framingham Health Study and included over 400 participants. Most of the test subjects were in their 50s and mostly female. This is a well known study based out of Massachusets and started in the late 1940s. Since then the children, spouses and grandchildren have been included in the study.

What the researchers wanted to know was the effect of exercise on certain metabolites. A metabolite is a entity involved in or a by-product of metabolism.

Participants of the study did brief bursts of exercise to the effect on certain markers of health. The exercise was 12 minutes on a stationary bike and the health markers included insulin resistance, oxidative stress, vascular reactivity, inflammation and longevity. When you consider how relevant diabetes, heart disease and ageing are to most adults we can appreciate the value of knowing how exercise impacts these markers.

So what did they find?

Well they found that metabolites associated with poor health and disease went down after cycling for 12 minutes. For example, glutamate, a marker of insulin resistance dropped by 29%. And DMGV, or dimethylguanidino valeric acid , went down 18%. On the other hand a marker of lipoylsis, or fat burning, 1-methylnicotinamide , increased by 33%.

The researchers noted that variations in results were due to sex, BMI and the amount of exercise performed. After a 3 minute warm-up study participants continued cycling with gradual increments in load of 15 or 25 watts. Those cycling at higher power outputs saw more favourable results.

Life is busy. There are times when school, work, family and other committments make training hard to fit in. Hopefully research such as this will encourage us to do something, even if it’s only 12 minutes per day.

Nayor, M., Shah, R. V., Miller, P. E., Blodgett, J. B., Tanguay, M., Pico, A. R., … & Pierce, K. A. (2020). Metabolic Architecture of Acute Exercise Response in Middle-Aged Adults in the Community. Circulation142(20), 1905-1924.

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