The federal government recommends that healthy adults get at least two and half hours or moderate-intensity exercise, or 75 minutes of higher-intensity every week. While this does not sound that much time in the long-term, many of us still cannot seem to find the time to workout. We see all the people hopping in and out of the gym on our way from work to our kid’s cello recital, and we wonder, “How do they have the time?” Luckily, new research suggests that we may be able to shave those two and half-hours down a bit, as long as we work out a big longer and harder.
Based on the current government guidelines, it is perceived that working out harder does not have any particular benefit, except that it saves some time. To see if this perception is accurate, a research team from Queen’s University on Ontario conducted a fitness study with 300 adults. The adults were generally sedentary with abdominal obesity, which is defined as a waist circumference of more than 35 inches for women who are not pregnant and more than 40 inches for men. Previous studies indicate that people with abdominal obesity are at a higher risk for heart disease than their counterparts with slimmer waistlines.
During the study, the participants were advised to engage in exercise under supervision, five times per week for 24 weeks. One group worked out at a lower intensity, for about half an hour per session. This is enough exercise to burn about 180 calories in women and 300 in men. This work out regiment was about the same as what is recommended in government guidelines. A second group exercised at the same intensity level but twice as long, nearly an hour a day for five days per week. The women in this group burned 360 calories and the men burned 600.
A third group of participants exercised at a slightly higher but still moderate intensity level until they had burned the same number of calories as the second study group. This took about 40 minutes a day, or 3.3 hours per week and the intensity level was equivalent to brisk walking. A fourth group did not engage in exercise. In the end, the three exercise groups all lost two inches from their waists regardless of intensity level or length of exercise time. But the participants in the third group saw better glucose tolerance, which is a risk factor for heart disease. In the end, all of the exercises improved walked briskly for around 40 minutes five times a week. That actually does not take much longer than already recommended, and can have great benefits.
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