When it comes to exercise, every 'brisk' minute adds up

Is it better to exercise longer or harder?

This is a question that health experts have long debated, but growing research is beginning to show that intensity trumps duration when it comes to weight loss - and a new study supports this idea even more.

Brief spurts count

Researchers from the University of Utah found that short episodes of exercise that met a specific level of intensity can effect weight loss just as positively as the current recommendations of 10 or more minutes of activity at a time.

"What we learned is that for preventing weight gain, the intensity of the activity matters more than duration," Jessie X. Fan, professor of family and consumer studies at the university, said in a statement.

According to current physical activity guidelines - which recommend that individuals get at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every week - fewer than 5 percent of American adults are moving enough, Fan said.

"Knowing that even short bouts of 'brisk' activity can add up to a positive effect is an encouraging message for promoting better health," he noted.

Higher-intensity activity was associated with a lower risk of obesity, even if those bouts of movement were fewer than 10 minutes long. This means activities like taking the stairs, parking at the far end of the lot or walking to the grocery store instead of driving really can add up over time, the researchers said.

Women less active than men

Results of the study may be especially important for women - females were found to be less active than men overall. Yet each daily minute of high-intensity activity was linked to a .07 decrease in BMI for females, which means the woman who adds short bouts of exercise to her routine will weight nearly a half-pound less and lower her risk for obesity by 5 percent.

When men engaged in these short activity bursts, they tended to exceed the recommended 150 minutes of exercise each week, accumulating about 246 minutes total and lowering their risk of obesity by 2 percent.

Source: The University of Utah

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