Low Intensity Exercise Better For The Body Than High Intensity Workouts
February 15, 2013

Low Intensity Exercise Better For The Body Than High Intensity Workouts

Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online

New research published in the journal PLoS ONE says low intensity exercises may be more beneficial to you than those short, intense workouts.

Researchers found, after studying 18 normal-weight 19- to 24-year-old participants, that long periods of low intensity exercise may help to improve insulin and lipid levels more than those short bursts of intense activity exercises.

These longer exercises can include standing and walking for longer periods of time, which showed to improve insulin sensitivity and blood lipid levels more than an hour of intense exercise did each day, even if the calories spent in both forms of exercise were the same.

During the study, the team followed the participants through three regimes. In the first, they were asked to sit for 14 hours a day and not indulge in any form of exercise, working as a control. The second regime included a patient sitting for 13 hours a day, and exercising vigorously for 1 hour. For the third regime, the participants substituted six hours of sitting, with four of walking and two hours of standing.

After each regime, the researchers tracked each of the participants' insulin and blood lipid levels. These two factors can help to identify metabolic conditions such as diabetes and obesity.

Once the study ended, the authors found that when participants were exercising vigorously for one hour a day, cholesterol and lipid levels improved slightly. However, when the participants were active for longer periods, with a lower intensity, the results improved significantly.

The study found that being active simply by standing or walking for long periods of time improved insulin levels compared to both a strictly sedentary lifestyle, and one with an hour of exercise each day.

Authors of the study concluded that when energy expenditure is equivalent, longer durations of low-intensity exercise may offer more benefits than shorter periods of intense activity.

Hans H.C.M. Savelberg, Associate Professor of Human Movement Science at Maastricht University, told redOrbit that current advice recommends exercising half an hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day.

"No guidelines are given on how to spend the remain 23.5 hours in a day. Based on our research it should be concluded that half an hour of MVPA cannot compensate the negative effects of sedentary behavior during the remainder of the day," Savelberg told redOrbit. "So an alter advice should be reduce sitting time during the day, either or not in combination with MVPA."

He also mentioned that the researchers did not investigate the effect of different mode of physical activity on muscle growth, so he could not say whether their research should change the way we currently think about muscle gaining workouts.

Similarly, another study reported on redOrbit at the end of January found that just small amounts of activity can be just as good as a trip to the gym. Researchers from this study reported in the journal American Journal of Health Promotion that these small amounts of exercise, such as switching a ride mower for a push, or doing pushups and sit-ups during commercials instead of sitting, can have significant results.

“You hear that less than 10 percent of Americans exercise and it gives the perception that people are lazy,” said Brad Cardinal of Oregon State University. “Our research shows that more than 40 percent of adults achieved the exercise guidelines, by making movement a way of life."