EXERCISE
April 15, 2015

Sweat Equity

It pays to exercise as vigorously as you can. Being winded and sweaty is a very good thing.

Apparently, you really do need to sweat to get the maximum health benefits from exercise. A large study of men and women between the ages of 45 and 75 years old found that vigorous physical activity, the kind that makes you puff and sweat, is the best way to avoid an early death.

The current World Health Organization guidelines for physical activity, and those for the U.S., UK, Australia, and other countries, recommend that adults do at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week — or a combination of both. According to the guidelines, one minute of vigorous activity counts as much as two minutes of moderate activity.

Those who included at least some vigorous activity had a nine to 13 percent lower risk of death that those who reported only moderate physical activity.

The guidelines leave individuals to choose their activity patterns according to their preferences and abilities.

The findings from this study, however, indicate that independent of the amount of activity, two minutes of moderate activity might not be equivalent to one minute of vigorous activity, Klaus Gebel, lead author on the study, told TheDoctor in an email.

This means that for anyone capable of doing so, it would be a good idea to enjoy some regular vigorous-intensity activity for extra health and fitness benefits.

“Previous studies have found that independent of energy expenditure, vigorous physical activity is more efficient than moderate activity in inducing cardiorespiratory and metabolic fitness, which is a stronger predictor of morbidity and mortality than activity,” said Gebel, a senior research fellow at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia.

Recent studies demonstrate that more time spent in physical activity is beneficial for cardio protection, metabolic health, and maintaining physical health.

The team had thought vigorous activity might offer greater health benefits than those from moderate intensity activities alone, even when the overall amount of activity was held constant, Gebel said. “We were not surprised when we found a positive effect of vigorous activity on longevity in our study.”

The researchers followed over 200,000 men and women enrolled in the 45 and Up study in Australia. They asked participants to fill out the Active Australia survey to report the amount and intensity of their physical activity. They compared those who engaged in only moderate activity (such as gentle swimming, social tennis, or household chores) with those who included at least some vigorous activity (such as jogging, aerobics, or competitive tennis).

People who engaged in at least some vigorous activity had a nine to 13 percent lower risk of death that those who reported only moderate physical activity. Compared to those who indicated they did no physical activity at all, people who reported increasing amounts of physical activity had a 34 percent to 64 percent lower risk of death.

The study is published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

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