To win the war against weight gain, it turns out that every skirmish matters – as long as the physical activity puts your heart and lungs to work.
To win the war against weight gain, it turns out that every skirmish matters — as long as the physical activity puts your heart and lungs to work.
In a new study published today in the American Journal of Health Promotion, University of Utah researchers found that even brief episodes of physical activity that exceed a certain level of intensity can have as positive an effect on weight as does the current recommendation of 10 or more minutes at a time.
“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 at the U. “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, MVPA, a week, which can be accumulated in eight to 10 minute periods. MVPA is defined as greater than 2,020 counts per minute measured with a tool called an accelerometer.
For an average person in an everyday setting without a fancy gadget to gauge the exertion, that would translate roughly to a walking speed of about three mph. But taking the stairs, parking at the far end of the lot, and walking to the store or between errands are choices that can add up and can make a positive health difference, the researchers note.
The study shows that higher-intensity activity was associated with a lower risk of obesity, whether in “bouts” of fewer or greater than 10 minutes.
This may be especially important news for women, who were on average less physically active than men. However, neither men nor women came close to the weekly 150-minute recommendation with bouts of eight to 10 minutes. However, when adding shorter bouts of higher-intensity activity, men exceeded the recommendation on average, accumulating 246 minutes per week, and women came close, at 144 minutes per week on average. The message is: a little more effort can have an important health payback.