If you thought that a casual stroll or a little gardening provides all the exercise you need, no one can blame you. That’s been the implication of official health recommendations for years.
But a new study suggests that you get more benefit from sweating and puffing than you do from just moving around.
The researchers followed 204,542 people 45 years old and older for more than six years. They compared those who engaged in only moderate exercise (such as gentle swimming, social tennis, or household chores) with those who included at least some vigorous exercise (such as soccer, running or competitive tennis).
They found that the risk of death for those who included some vigorous exercise was 9 to 13 percent lower compared with the risk among those who only exercised moderately. And the more time they spent in vigorous exercise, the less likely they were to die during those six years. The study did not investigate the controversial question of whether too much vigorous exercise could be a problem.
Benefits of Vigorous Exercise
“The benefits of vigorous activity applied to men and women of all ages, and were independent of the total amount of time spent being active,” said lead author Klaus Gebel from James Cook University in Sydney, Australia, in a press release.
“The results indicate that whether or not you are obese, and whether or not you have heart disease or diabetes, if you can manage some vigorous activity it could offer significant benefits for longevity.”
Co-author Melody Ding from the University of Sydney said the results indicated that vigorous exercise should be more strongly encouraged in clinical and public health guidelines.
The current advice from the World Health Organization and health authorities in countries including the United States, United Kingdom and Australia is for adults to do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week.
Standard Recommendations Challenged
“The guidelines leave individuals to choose their level of exercise intensity, or a combination of levels, with two minutes of moderate exercise considered the equivalent of one minute of vigorous activity,” Ding said. “It might not be the simple two-for-one swap that is the basis of the current guidelines.”
The study classified participants into three groups: those who reported that none of their physical activity was vigorous, those who reported that up to 30 percent of their exercise was vigorous , and those who reported more than 30 percent of their exercise was vigorous.
The mortality rate for those who reported up to 30 percent vigorous activity, was 9 percent lower than those who reported no vigorous activity. For those whose exercise routine was vigorous for more than 30 percent of the time, the rate of mortality was reduced by 13 per cent.
For example, if people who did 150 to 299 minutes of physical exercise per week, but none of it vigorous, they had a death rate of 3.48 percent. But if more than 30 percent of their exercise was vigorous, they had a death rate of 2.64 percent.
“Our research indicates that even small amounts of vigorous activity could help reduce your risk of early death,” Gebel said. “For those with medical conditions, for older people in general, and for those who have never done any vigorous activity or exercise before, it’s always important to talk to a doctor first.
“Previous studies indicate that interval training, with short bursts of vigorous effort, is often manageable for older people, including those who are overweight or obese.”
Photo: Jason Sewanyana dashes for a triple jump. Photo by UTC Athletics Club.
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