In truth, little physical activity is better than no physical activity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting around 150 minutes each week which isn’t a lot of time.
Breaking it down in increments such as 30 minutes a day will give you two days each week to skip it. Activities like walking or strength training specific muscle groups such as legs, hips, back, and more are recommended. You can even mix together moderate and vigorous activities in order to avoid repetitiveness by finding a balance of jogging or running for 75 minutes a week while mixing in walking and strength training as well.
But researchers in the UK found that while physical activity of any intensity or kind is helpful toward better health — the more intense an activity, the more benefits one will see.
A team of researchers at the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge published a study in Nature Medicine, where they used data from more than 96,0000 UK participants to see what the different health benefits are between light intensity and vigorous-intensity activity. Similarly to the CDC, the UK Chief Medical Officers recommend adults should get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week.
The study, which is said to be the largest ever that included wearable fitness tracking devices, aimed to see whether more intense activities and exercise had a large impact on health rather than just increasing the amount of exercise an individual does each week. The ultimate aim was to see whether these types of activities contributed to a lower risk of death.
“Our results show that doing more activity of any intensity is beneficial, but that expending those calories in more intense activity is better still. By gradually building up the intensity of physical activity we do each day we can improve our future health,” said Dr. Tessa Strain of the MRC Epidemiology Unit in a statement.
Researchers had participants of the study wear activity trackers on their wrist to collect data on how long participants exercised for and at what intensity these exercises occurred. Of the 96,476 participants, 732 died during the time of the trail. Researchers did find that as people upped the intensity of workouts, the risk of death lowered following the three years.
Here’s a breakdown of how it went:
- For participants who participated in 20 KG of physical activity daily, they were a third less likely to die compared to others who accumulated 15 KG a day. Participants in this grouping participated in at least 10% of moderate-intensity activity. They acquired the rest of their recommended exercise through 35-minute walks and an additional two minutes via a faster-paced walk.
- People who participated in 30 KG of physical activity daily were half as likely to die compared to the 15 KG grouping at 10% of moderate-intensity activity. But when it was increased to 30% of moderate-intensity activity, only a quarter were eas likely to die, researchers said.
“Our research shows how the use of wearable devices capable of measuring physical activity in large cohorts can help disentangle the roles of volume and intensity of activity in influencing future health,” said Dr. Soren Barge, a senior author of the study.
“The availability of data from nearly 100,000 participants in UK Biobank, backed up by a series of validation studies, allowed us to compare the impact of activity intensity in groups with similar overall volumes of physical activity, and demonstrate that more intense physical activity has health benefits beyond just contributing to total activity volume.”