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`Shorter, intense workouts better than long, strenuous ones`

Last Updated: Sunday, April 1, 2012 - 18:03

Washington: If time is an excuse for you not to hit the gym, please take note: A short but intense exercise session may be healthier than a longer, more moderate session that burns the same amount of calories, scientists say.

Researchers at the Queen`s University in Ontario, Canada, found that people who engaged in the most vigorous exercise reduced their risk of developing metabolic syndrome by two-thirds, compared with those who did no vigorous exercise, even when the total amount of calories the participants burned while exercising was the same.

Vigorous exercise includes activities such as running and jumping rope; moderate exercise might consist of walking or going for a leisurely bike ride.

People with metabolic syndrome may have excess weight around the waist, difficulty controlling blood sugar levels, high blood pressure and low levels of "good" cholesterol. Having the condition puts people at heightened risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes, LiveScience reported.

In the study, published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, the researchers used data collected from 1,841 adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which is an ongoing study conducted by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

For seven days, the participants wore an accelerometer on their right hip during their waking hours. The device provided data on participants` movements and exercise intensity.

The researchers found that the more active people were in general, the lower their risk of having metabolic syndrome.

But vigorous exercise seemed to be more beneficial than moderate exercise. Those who did 150 minutes of moderate exercise were about 2.4 times more likely to develop metabolic syndrome than those who did 75 minutes a week of vigorous exercise weekly, the researchers found.

The researchers noted that the general public has an "apparent distaste" for doing intense exercise.

In the study, 70 per cent of participants did no intense exercise whatsoever, and even among those who followed current exercise guidelines, fewer than 20 per cent met the guideline by exercising intensely.

Current guidelines including those from the US Department of Health and Human Services recommend doing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week, based on the idea that vigorous exercise burns about twice as many calories per minute as moderate exercise.

But such recommendations imply that there are few health benefits of exercising vigorously, except that your workout may take less time, according to the researchers.

Still, the findings suggest that vigorous physical activity should be emphasised as a component of public health guidelines regarding exercise, the researchers said.

The study was limited in that the accelerometer could not be worn in water, so participants who swam may not have their exercise accurately measured. The devices may also not have captured intense exercise requiring little movement, such as stationary biking.


First Published: Sunday, April 1, 2012 - 18:03
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