Doing Just 12 Minutes Of Exercise Can Boost Your Health, Study Finds

The influence even short bursts of exercise have on the body spell a healthier future. Maridav/Shutterstock.com

In a year where staying indoors has been not only encouraged but mandated, the concept of going for a run can seem all the less appealing. If you're finding it harder to motivate yourself to get moving, you're not alone, but a new study has found that even just a small amount of exercise can make a big difference.

The research, published in the journal Circulation, found that short bursts of exercise could improve health significantly by altering the body’s level of metabolites. The paper describes how just 12 minutes of intense cardio can alter more than 80 percent of circulating metabolites, which can influence a person’s cardiometabolic and cardiovascular health in the long run.

The study looked at the levels of 588 circulating metabolites in 411 middle-aged men and women both before and immediately after doing 12 minutes of vigorous exercise. Their results showed favorable shifts in several metabolites known to be linked to heart disease, diabetes, and liver disease. Their findings also revealed that these benefits were influenced by more than just their exercise routine, as sex and measurements of body mass were also implicated in the ratio of metabolites.

As well as looking at the response of individuals in real-time, the researchers were able to predict future health outcomes of their participants using historical data. The 1948 longitudinal Framingham Heart Study, which holds data on three generations of participants, gave access to the study authors so that they could search for trends in the long-term effects of metabolites on increased or reduced risk of future health complications. Using this, they could predict both their participants' future health outcomes and how long they might live based on their body’s response to the exercise experiment that was reflected by their metabolite ratios.

The research reveals insights into the molecular underpinnings that influence the effect exercise has on the body. In doing so, it can aid health workers in establishing how to best target patients who exhibit a number of metabolic risk factors such as heart disease or diabetes and better inform clinicians on the best treatment plans for these patients to secure a healthier future.

"Much is known about the effects of exercise on cardiac, vascular and inflammatory systems of the body, but our study provides a comprehensive look at the metabolic impact of exercise by linking specific metabolic pathways to exercise response variables and long-term health outcomes," said senior author on the study Gregory Lewis in a statement. "What was striking to us was the effects a brief bout of exercise can have on the circulating levels of metabolites that govern such key bodily functions as insulin resistance, oxidative stress, vascular reactivity, inflammation and longevity."

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