Engaging in vigorous physical activity for 3 to 4 minutes per day is associated with a decrease in the risk of cancer among adults who typically don’t exercise, according to research published in JAMA Oncology.

Researchers found that these short bursts of activity — called vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity (VILPA) — decreased the risk of any cancer as well as physical activity-related cancers.

The researchers examined VILPA data from 22,398 nonexercising adults from the UK Biobank accelerometry subsample. Participants wore accelerometers on their dominant wrist to record VILPA. The majority of VILPA (92.3%) was performed in increments of up to 1 minute.

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At a mean follow-up of 6.7 years, 2356 cancers were diagnosed, 1084 of which were considered related to physical activity.

The daily median VILPA duration was 4.5 minutes, and this was associated with a significant decrease in the risk of total cancer (hazard ratio [HR], 0.80; 95% CI, 0.69-0.92) or physical activity-related cancer (HR, 0.69; 95% CI, 0.55-0.86).

The minimum amount of VILPA in 1-minute increments that was required for a decrease in cancer risk was 3.4 minutes per day for total cancer (HR, 0.83; 95% CI, 0.73-0.93) and 3.7 minutes per day for physical activity-related cancer (HR, 0.72; 95% CI, 0.59-0.88).

Results for VILPA in 2-minute increments were similar, the researchers reported, and increasing minutes of VILPA per day was associated with a progressively decreasing risk of any cancer and physical activity-related cancer.

“Daily VILPA may be a promising intervention for cancer prevention in populations not able or motivated to exercise in leisure time,” the researchers concluded.


Stamatakis E, Ahmadi MN, Friedenreich CM, et al. Vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity and cancer incidence among nonexercising adults: The UK Biobank accelerometry study. JAMA Oncol. Published online July 27, 2023. doi10.1001/jamaoncol.2023.1830

This article originally appeared on Cancer Therapy Advisor