Enjoy exercise `to reap benefits`

Washington: Fitness freaks, please note -- exercise doesn`t have to be all "no pain, no gain". Two new studies have shown that people actually get health benefits from working out at a pleasant pace.

An international team has shown in the two studies that exercising at a "somewhat hard" intensity was perceived to be "pleasant" and thus resulted in increased aerobic capacity and improved physical health, including improved body mass index, blood pressure and blood lipid profile.

Team leader Prof Roger Eston at the University of South Australia said that the first study, published in `Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise` journal, is significant because a recent statement of the American College of Sports Medicine stated there was insufficient evidence to support using the rating of perceived exertion as a primary method of exercise.

"However, we now have excellent evidence to show that it can be used to improve aerobic capacity. This first-time study observed a 17 per cent increase in aerobic capacity from a self-paced, eight-week treadmill training programme where previously sedentary participants exercised for 30 minutes, three times per week, at a `somewhat hard` level.

"Their aerobic function was improved so that as the program went on, they could work physiologically harder, but their rating of perceived exertion was the same. So they
increased their fitness levels and received associated health benefits such as improved body mass index and reduced blood pressure," Prof Eston said in a release.

Eston says a most important component of the programme was that participants perceived the exercise to be pleasant.

"If you`re going to prescribe someone exercise, you`re going to have a much stronger chance of having them stick with it if they’re enjoying it. And these people actually enjoyed the experience. They found it to be pleasant," he said.

The second study, published in the `European Journal of Applied Physiology`, has showed using the rating of perceived exertion was just as effective as a VO2 max test to measure cardiovascular fitness.

"With a VO2 max test you keep cranking up the treadmill until you physically can`t keep going anymore, but in this study we`re able to show that when individuals were instructed
to exercise at four incremental, perceptually regulated intensities set at levels perceived as `very light`, `light`, `somewhat hard` and `hard` we could reliably predict their maximal aerobic capacity," Prof Eston said.