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The benefits of physical activity are widely known to science. However, the relationship between different types of exercise (lighter, more intense, aerobic or not) and improved fitness is not yet fully understood.
To further this knowledge, researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine (USA) conducted a large study with more than 2,000 participants, the largest ever made in order to understand this relationship.
Good physical condition has a great influence on health and is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
Posted in European Heart Journal, the study found that vigorous exercise improves fitness more than light physical activity, such as walking 10,000 steps a day (spread throughout the day).
Intense exercise is three times more effective at improving fitness than simply walking and 14 times more effective than simply reducing daily inactivity (such as getting up to change the TV channel, taking stairs instead of the elevator, etc.).
The conclusion may seem obvious, but in fact there are a number of details that have been explored in depth by research, conducted and led by the team of Boston University professor of cardiology, Matthew Nayor.
For example, can a person who sits in the office all day make up for this sedentary time by exercising more vigorously after work? How does this person’s health compare to someone who has a job where there is more physical activity but no exercise beyond that?
Too there was uncertainty as to whether the number of steps taken per day (counted with step counters) actually made a difference in fitness. The bottom line is that they do for all genders, age groups, and health conditions, confirming that staying active throughout the day is beneficial for everyone.
The researchers also found that people who have a higher than average number of steps per day and who exercise more intensely for a short period are also in above-average fitness, regardless of how long they have been sitting.
In other words, apparently the damage caused by a sedentary lifestyle throughout the day can be offset with increased physical activity and dexercise at other times.
The research also inquired about how the body responds to different intensities of physical activity during the start, middle and peak of an exercise.
The researchers already expected to find among the results the fact that more intense exercise promotes an improvement in performance during maximum activity.
But they also found that high intensity exercise is also more beneficial than brisk walking in improving the body’s ability to start and maintain lower levels of activity.
According to Nayor, who led the research, another question was what are the impacts of past habits related to physical health and the level of well-being of a person in the present.
“We found that participants with high rates of activity at the beginning, but low levels of activity about 8 years later, had equivalent levels of physical fitness. This suggests that perhaps there is a ‘memory effect’ of past physical activities that are reflected in the current fitness index, “says Nayor in a research article published by Boston University and the World Economic Forum.
The importance of light physical activities
Matthew Nayor points out that while the bottom line is that more intense activities are better for fitness, this does not mean that light activities are unnecessary.
“Our study confirmed that light activity also improves fitness. And this is especially important for older people or for people who have medical conditions that prevent them from doing more intense activities, “he says in the article.
He adds that if your goal is to improve your physical condition, doing at least one more moderate or intense exercise is three times more effective than simply being a person who walks a lot, for example.
What is intense exercise?
The researchers used definitions established in other studies as the basis for their recent work. Based on those parameters, walking 60 to 99 steps per minute is light exercise, walking between 100 and 129 steps per minute is moderate and over 130 steps per minute is intense.
However, in the article published by Boston University, Nayor points out that the speed may need to be higher in younger people.
The US Fitness Guide recommends between 2:30 hours and 5 hours of moderate exercise per week and between 1:15 hours and 2:30 hours of intense exercise in the same period.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.