Many people dread exercise because they think being fit requires hours of grueling workouts, but researchers say exercise intensity is more important than duration when it comes weight control.
"What we learned is that for preventing weight gain, the intensity of the activity matters more than duration," according to a new report. "Knowing that even short bouts of brisk activity can add up to a positive effect is really an encouraging message for promoting better health."
In the study, which was published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, researchers at the University of Utah monitored the daily activities of 4,500 adults over three years, and concluded that even short bursts of intense exercise made an appreciable difference in weight management.
"Taking the stairs, walking to the store or between errands are choices that can add up and can end up making a positive health difference," said lead researcher Dr. Jessie X. Fan.
Researchers say even one-minute bursts of intense exercise can have a dramatic impact on weight control over time. "This means that when comparing two women (each 5-feet-5-inches tall), the woman who regularly adds a minute of brisk activity to her day will weigh nearly a half-pound less," according to the report. "Results were similar for men."
Fitness trainers have recently begun touting the benefits of high-intensity interval training (such as Tabata and CrossFit) over long bouts of low-intensity exercise (such as light jogging) for weight loss, building stamina and body reshaping. And celebrities such as Jessica Alba and "Superman" star Henry Cavill revealed they do high-intensity interval training to maintain their super-fit physiques.
While most people aren't training to look flawless for a photo shoot, the new research provides persuasive evidence that even short bursts of exercise can have a noticeable impact. "The message is: a little more effort can have an important health payback," said Dr. Fan.