by Monique D'Souza, LiveLighter Policy and Research Coordinator


There’s great news for those of us who don’t like the gym or struggle to find the time for scheduled exercise. Just four to five minutes of vigorous movement a day, in one-to-two-minute intervals, can massively benefit our health and lead to a longer life.

When you consider being physically active, do you immediately think of dragging yourself to the gym, going for a run, playing sport or heading to an exercise class? While these activities are great, the reality is that a lot of us are pressed for time, making it difficult to fit this type of physical activity into our daily routines. This is where VILPA comes in.

If you haven’t heard of VILPA before, that’s because it’s a relatively new term (and our favourite new term in the office). Think of it like an ‘exercise snack’.

What is VILPA?

Vigorous Intermittent Lifestyle Physical Activity (VILPA) refers to one-to-two-minute bursts of vigorous physical activity performed during everyday tasks, such as carrying the groceries or taking the stairs.

What counts as vigorous?

Vigorous activity will be at 77 to 95 per cent of your maximum heart rate. Your maximum heart rate varies according to your age.


Low intensity


Moderate intensity


Vigorous intensity


Maximum intensity

































One way to monitor your heart rate is with a wearable device, like a smart watch or Fitbit. If you don’t have one, you can use the Talk Test instead to estimate the intensity of your activity. If you’re doing vigorous activity, you’ll be breathing heavily and won’t be able to say more than a few words without having to pause to breathe.

What the research says

Several studies have been published in recent years on the benefits of VILPA. One recent study found that 4.5 minutes of VILPA a day in non-exercisers led to a 32 per cent reduction in physical activity related cancers. Another study found that that three, one-to-two-minute bursts of VILPA a day reduced risk of death by 38 per cent among non-exercisers. Results were similar for people participating in regular exercise, suggesting the benefits of adding more VILPA for everyone.

VILPA benefits

  • Easy to fit into daily routine
  • Doesn’t require any fitness equipment or clothing
  • Completely free
  • Can be done almost anywhere

Ways to get your VILPA in

  • Take the stairs

Next time you find yourself automatically heading to the elevator, think about taking the stairs instead. Try finding a steady pace as you go, to elevate your heart rate for a minute or two.

Woman walks up the stairs

  • Active cleaning and gardening

Vigorously vacuum or mop the floors, wipe down benches, shovel mulch or rake the garden. This one is great because you have the added benefit of a cleaner house and tidier garden!

Planting a tree in the garden

  • Carrying groceries

If you live close to a supermarket, try taking a brisk walk there rather than driving next time. If walking to the supermarket isn’t an option, try parking your car a little further away than usual, even if it’s only an extra 50 metres. Carrying the groceries from the store to your boot will help get your heart rate up and your VILPA on.

Bag of groceries

Photo by Maria Lin Kim on Unsplash

  • Power walk or uphill walk

Take a walk at a fast pace on your next lunch break or when you’re running errands. Bonus points if it’s an uphill walk. If you don’t find walking enough to get you puffing, you might need to switch up your pace to a jog or run.

Try our interval walking guide.

Walking in work clothes

  • Playing with kids or the dog

Head outdoors to bounce on the trampoline or race with your kids at the park. Bring your dog along for added enthusiasm and excitement.

Family dancing in the living room

The physical activity guidelines recommend that Australian adults aged 18 to 65 do at least 150 minutes of moderate activity (or half that amount of vigorous activity) per week. While this amount is a great target for our health and wellbeing, don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Any extra bit of movement we can get into our day is a win for our health.

Research on VILPA shows that small bursts of vigorous physical activity can offer massive health benefits, helping you live a healthier, longer life.  Now you know what VILPA is, why not try giving it a go?

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