Think you need to spend hours at the gym to benefit from exercise? Think again. Short bursts of brisk physical activity can have as positive an effect on weight loss as exercising for 10 or more minutes at a time, according to new research out of the University of Utah.
The findings, published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, suggest even brief but intense workout episodes can be beneficial, as long as the physical activity puts your heart and lungs to work — suggesting quality is better than quantity, when it comes to exercise.
"What we learned is that for preventing weight gain, the intensity of the activity matters more than duration," says Jessie X. Fan, professor of family and consumer studies. "This new understanding is important because fewer than 5 percent of American adults today achieve the recommended level of physical activity in a week according to the current physical activity guidelines. Knowing that even short bouts of 'brisk' activity can add up to a positive effect is an encouraging message for promoting better health."
The current physical activity guideline for Americans is to get at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week — the equivalent of walking at a brisk pace of three miles per hour (fast enough to break a sweat and raise your heart rate, but still carry on a conversation). That activity can be accumulated in eight to 10 minute workout periods.
But the new study shows that higher-intensity activity was associated with a lower risk of obesity, whether in "bouts" of fewer or greater than 10 minutes.
For the study, researchers had more than 4,500 men and women wear monitors for seven days that captured data on their physical activity. They then compared measurements of physical activity based on length of time and intensity.
The results showed that for women, each daily minute spent in higher-intensity short workouts translated to the loss of about a half-pound. Results were similar for men. For both genders, each daily minute of higher-intensity activity lowered the overall odds of obesity — 5 percent for women, and 2 percent for men.
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