Vigorous workouts give more bang for buck

November 15, 2013
Vigorous workouts give more bang for buck
Credit: Shutterstock

A one hour high-intensity workout provides the same fitness benefits as 50 hours of walking, a major Flinders University study has found.

And an hour of high-intensity exercise – defined as exercise which pushes your heart rate up to 75 per cent of its maximum capacity or more – results in the same amount of fat loss as two hours of moderate-intensity exercise.

The study, led by Flinders health sciences lecturer Dr Lynda Norton with researchers from the University of South Australia, measured the health benefits gained from every minute of vigorous activity compared to the same time spent in moderate-intensity exercise.

They assessed the affects on four disease risk factors; body fat and weight, cholesterol, hip and waist girth, and aerobic fitness.

More than 620 adults completed the six-week exercise program, with participants divided into two groups and asked to perform either a one hour high-intensity workout, such as circuit training, boxing or step classes, three times a week or 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, such as walking, seven days a week.

While the moderate-intensity exercisers still gained some health benefits compared to 135 adults who did not participate in the program, Dr Norton said significantly greater benefits were achieved by the high-intensity exercise group.

"Most physical activity guidelines recommend a 30 minute daily walk but we found that it would take 50 hours of walking to achieve the same that you could get from just one hour of high-intensity or ," Dr Norton, based in Social Health Sciences, said.

"When we looked at cholesterol, we found it would take five hours of walking to see the same improvements as one hour of , and for body mass index, it was the equivalent of about eight hours of walking," she said.

Dr Norton said that while the benefits of high-intensity exercise are well documented, the study was the first of its kind to measure the magnitude of change across major risk factors for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases when directly compared to walking.

"We know that low levels of exercise are associated with poor health, and that short, intense bouts of exercise are better but we didn't know how much better.

"We're now planning to look at what happens to your metabolic and fitness profile when you do vigorous exercise such as bootcamp or a spin class but then sit for long periods.

"My belief is that if you do vigorous exercise it counteracts a lot of sitting whereas other researchers say sedentary behaviour counteracts physical activity. However, they have generally been looking at moderate-intensity exercise."

With obesity rates on the rise, Dr Norton said intervention strategies to increase activity, particular high-intensity exercise where less time is required, are important.

"Any form of is better than nothing but you'll get a lot more bang for your buck if you increase the intensity.

"This is particularly relevant in our time-poor modern lifestyles where lack of time is the most common reason people give for not doing more exercise."

Explore further: Study links moderate activity to lower breast cancer risk

More information: Lynda H Norton, Kevin I Norton, Nicole Lewis, James Dollman, "A comparison of two short-term intensive physical activity interventions: methodological considerations" International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 2011, 8:133  DOI: 10.1186/1479-5868-8-133

Related Stories

Study links moderate activity to lower breast cancer risk

October 4, 2013
A large new American Cancer Society study adds to increasing evidence that physical activity reduces the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Researchers say moderate recreational activity was associated with a ...

Doctors should routinely evaluate patients' physical activity habits

October 14, 2013
Doctors should evaluate your physical activity habits as routinely as checking your blood pressure and other risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, the American Heart Association recommends in a scientific statement published ...

Long, low intensity exercise may have more health benefits relative to short, intense workouts

February 13, 2013
Standing and walking for longer stretches improves insulin sensitivity and blood lipid levels more than an hour of intense exercise each day does, but only if the calories spent in both forms of exercise are similar. The ...

New exercise guidelines developed for people with MS

October 11, 2013
According to new research out of Queen's University, an active lifestyle has many benefits for adults living with multiple sclerosis. Based on that research, Amy Latimer-Cheung (School of Kinesiology and Health Studies) has ...

Short, intense bursts of exercise could be better for our health than longer intervals

September 6, 2012
Spending 2 minutes 30 seconds exercising at a high level of intensity, could be better at protecting the body against risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD) than longer sessions of less intense exercise, ...

The higher the better? Intensity of training in CHD patients important to improve fitness

September 20, 2013
High-intensity exercise is shown to be protective against coronary heart disease (CHD) and is well known as a popular and time-saving approach to getting fit. But what about people who already have heart disease? Previously, ...

Recommended for you

Experts devise plan to slash unnecessary medical testing

October 17, 2017
Researchers at top hospitals in the U.S. and Canada have developed an ambitious plan to eliminate unnecessary medical testing, with the goal of reducing medical bills while improving patient outcomes, safety and satisfaction.

New study: Nearly half of US medical care comes from emergency rooms

October 17, 2017
Nearly half of all US medical care is delivered by emergency departments, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM). And in recent years, the percentage of care delivered ...

No evidence that widely marketed technique to treat leaky bladder/prolapse works

October 16, 2017
There is no scientific evidence that a workout widely marketed to manage the symptoms of a leaky bladder and/or womb prolapse actually works, conclude experts in an editorial published online in the British Journal of Sports ...

Ten pence restaurant chain levy on sugary drinks linked to fall in sales

October 16, 2017
The introduction of a 10 pence levy on sugar sweetened drinks across the 'Jamie's Italian' chain of restaurants in the UK was associated with a relatively large fall in sales of these beverages of between 9 and 11 per cent, ...

New exercises help athletes manage dangerous breathing disorder

October 16, 2017
A novel set of breathing techniques developed at National Jewish Health help athletes overcome vocal cord dysfunction and improve performance during high-intensity exercise. Vocal cord dysfunction, now also referred to as ...

Learning and staying in shape key to longer lifespan, study finds

October 13, 2017
People who are overweight cut their life expectancy by two months for every extra kilogramme of weight they carry, research suggests.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.