Higher-intensity exercise, even in spurts, plays an important role in controlling weight, according to a new study.
"What we learned is that for preventing weight gain, the intensity of the activity matters more than duration," Jessie Fan, a professor of family and consumer studies at the University of Utah, said in a university news release.
"This new understanding is important because fewer than 5% of American adults today achieve the recommended level of physical activity in a week according to the current physical activity guidelines. Knowing that even short bouts of 'brisk' activity can add up to a positive effect is an encouraging message for promoting better health," Fan explained.
The current physical activity guideline for Americans is to get at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week, which can be accumulated in eight- to 10-minute periods.
The analysis of data from more than 2 200 women and 2 300 men, aged 18 to 64, found that higher-intensity activity was associated with a lower risk of obesity, whether it was performed in sessions of shorter or longer than 10 minutes.
Each daily minute of higher-intensity activity reduced the risk of obesity by 5% in women and by 2% in men, according to the study published in the current issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion.
For women, each daily minute of higher-intensity activity offsets the calorie equivalent of 0.41 pounds. This means that a 5-foot, 5-inch woman who regularly adds a minute of higher-intensity activity to her day will weigh nearly half a pound less than a woman of similar height who is not as active, the researchers said. And the findings were similar for men, they noted in the news release.
The US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers a guide to physical activity.