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For weight loss, exercise intensity matters more than duration

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We've all heard that diet trumps exercise for producing weight loss. Now, research confirms that exercise intensity is more important than duration for weight loss, fat-burning and improved health, the NY Times reported Dec. 25.

This conclusion contradicts the widely held belief that slogging away for hours in the gym is better than shorter, intense workouts that push you to your physical limits. A slew of research backs these findings.

In one recent study, sedentary volunteers ran on the treadmill at 90 percent of their maximum aerobic capacity for four minutes, three times a week, for 10 weeks. At the end of the 10 weeks, the subjects had dramatically improved their blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and aerobic stamina.

The great thing is that everyone can find time to exercise a few minutes at a time. “One of the main reasons people give for not exercising is that they don’t have time," said Arnt Erik Tjonna, a postdoctoral fellow at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, who led the study.

Similar studies have produced the same results. While these short bouts of vigorous exercise may sound easy, they're not. And that's the point: When you go hard during these short workouts, it's difficult to extend go beyond a few minutes at a time because you're drained from the all-out effort. Pushing yourself to your limits is what accelerates fat-burning and weight loss.

But that's not all. Research also shows that rigorous exercise actually changes your DNA, which is why it has been called the fountain of youth.

Scientists discovered that exercise reshapes genes in human cells, changing how atoms attach to the outside of individual portions of our DNA. Researchers found that six months of moderate exercise profoundly remodeled genes related to the risk for diabetes and heart disease."

“[All the research shows] the robust effect exercise can have on the human body, even at the level of our DNA," said Tjonna.

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