Dr Michael Mosley on the benefits of exercise
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High blood pressure can often be prevented or reduced by regular exercise – that’s the advice from the NHS. But which exercise is best? On his podcast Just One Thing, Dr Michael Mosley delved into the benefits of doing short intervals of exercise, including two minutes of stair climbing.
“Short intervals of exercise might improve your blood pressure,” said Dr Marie Murphy Professor of Sport and Exercise Science at Ulster University on Mosley’s BBC 4 podcast.
“There’s some evidence from a couple of studies – one which comes from colleagues in Japan where they wore a blood pressure monitor all day and looked at the effects of short bouts spread across the course of a day with one bout and they found that collectively blood pressure lowering benefit of each walk added up to more than the blood pressure lowering of just one walk.”
The concept of short intervals of exercise has become known as ‘exercise snacking’.
But what’s the minimal amount of time you need to get an exercise snack?
She said: “We say to people try to do it in 10 minute bouts.
“But looking at the more recent evidence, it seems to be that almost any length of a bout will count.
“But I guess if you’re trying to be practical about this and you’re trying to get to 30 minutes a day, then I think 10 minutes at a time is probably good to aim for.”
Dr Murphy added: “Don’t worry if you can only do it five minutes at a time, I think every bit adds up.
“The key message here – every single minute counts, so even if you’ve only got a minute, you can still use that wisely, to accumulate towards that 30 minute target.”
And when it comes to the best type of exercise for exercise snacking, Dr Murphy recommended stair climbing.
She explained: “One of my PHD students looked at a bunch of student nurses and got them to climb up flights of steps during the day – only two minutes of stair climbing, but over the course of a day, they didn’t do it all at once.
“Their blood pressure improved, their resting blood pressure improved, their blood lips improved over an eight week period.
“So a really tiny amount of exercise, two minutes per day, caused a health benefit that you might not even get from a longer, more gentle exercise.
“So I think stair climbing is definitely a winner.”
Exercise snacking has been around for five or six years.
Time is the main reason people give for not exercising, but exercise snacking can solve this.
Dr Mosley said: “Many of us don’t meet the UK physical activity guidelines and to be fair, finding two and a half hours to exercise each week can be a challenge.
“And during the pandemic it got worse. One study found our step count fell by around 50 percent.
“But the great thing is we don’t have to do it all in big long sessions.
“Little and often might even be better.”
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