Moray House School of Education and Sport

Incidental activity and heart health

A study of over 25,000 UK adults wearing top-of-the-range trackers provided evidence of the positive effects of short bursts of activity, or incidental activity, on health. Depending on how long participants were active, this type of activity may reduce risks of heart attack, stroke and mortality rates.

The study was led by the University of Sydney and included researchers from University College London, University of Glasgow, University of Edinburgh, Loughborough University and University of Oxford. It has been published in The Lancet Public Health. 


The researchers write, “To our knowledge, this is the first study to examine the potential cardiovascular health benefits of short moderate-to-vigorous-intensity bouts of intermittent, non-exercise physical activity done as part of daily living”.


Aiming to highlight the benefits of short bursts of everyday activity, researchers recruited participants aged between 42 and 78 who wore fitness trackers from the UK Biobank. The trackers measured patterns over seven days of incidental physical activity. Researchers monitored participants for eight years, measuring the length and intensity of activity, before measuring these against their health records.  


Co-author, Professor Marie Murphy from Moray House School of Education and Sport, University of Edinburgh said "It was great to work on this paper with such an esteemed group of researchers led by Matthew Ahmadi (University of Sydney) and Manos Stamatakis (University of Sydney). The findings show that even short bouts of moderate-to-vigorous-intensity activity done as part of normal daily life, such as taking the stairs, have the potential to improve cardiovascular health among people who don't exercise. Good news for those who can't find time for more formal or traditional types of exercise."


Although the results on health depend on the amount of time each individual spends on these activities, research found that activity bouts as short as 1 to 5 minutes can have a positive impact on cardiovascular health. It also provides new evidence that activity doesn’t have to be carried out continuously for 10 minutes or more to be beneficial.


Read the full publication

The UK Biobank

Professor Marie Murphy

Physical Activity for Health Research Centre (PAHRC)