The benefits of brief bursts of exercise

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Published: February, 2021

Doing vigorous exercise for just 12 minutes triggers changes in blood levels of substances linked to cardiovascular health, new research finds.

The study used data from 411 middle-aged adults from the Framingham Heart Study. Researchers measured levels of 588 substances involved in metabolism (metabolites) in the volunteers' blood before and immediately after 12 minutes of vigorous exercise on an exercise bike.

The investigators detected changes in more than 80% of the metabolites, including favorable shifts in those linked to diabetes and heart disease. For example, exercise had beneficial effects on metabolites related to insulin resistance (a condition that is a precursor to diabetes), lipolysis (the breakdown of fats), inflammation, and blood vessel reactivity. These benefits appeared to be blunted among people with obesity.

The metabolites associated with exercise might provide unique "signatures" in the bloodstream that could reveal whether a person is physically fit, similar to the way blood tests show how well the kidney and liver are functioning, according to the authors. The study was published Nov. 17, 2020, in Circulation.

Image: © Sanja Radin/Getty Images

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