What is the ideal training level for good fitness, extra time to exercise, and increasing the number of steps each day seem to be able to offset the negative effects of physical inactivity on fitness.
We all agree that exercise is good for you: but how hard and how often should you exert yourself to get the best results?
A large study examining the relationship between habitual physical activity and fitness levels shows that “moderate to vigorous physical activity” is the most efficient way to promote good health.
From cardiopulmonary exercise tests (CPETs) and data from fitness tracking wearables worn by 2,070 participants, the finding was also confirmed taking into account variables such as age, gender, obesity and cardiovascular risk, scientists report.
In terms of making changes in fitness, each minute of extra moderate to vigorous exercise corresponded, on average, to about 3 minutes of walking and about 14 minutes less sedentary time. In addition, additional exercise and increasing the number of steps each day seem to offset the negative effects of sedentary activity on fitness.
“By relating different forms of habitual physical activity to detailed interventions, we hope our study provides important information that can ultimately be used to improve physical fitness and overall health throughout the life-course,” says cardiologist Matthew Nayor of from Boston University.
CPETs measure maximum oxygen uptake, or VO2, an indication of how much oxygen the body can use during exercise. The more oxygen the body can absorb and process during its work, the higher the aerobic fitness.
Based on these CPET results, it turns out that moderate to vigorous physical activity (or MVPA) is best for increasing VO2. As an MVPA, everything counts that makes your heart beat faster and makes your breathing harder – for example, a brisk walk or a bike ride.
It’s worth noting that the study focused on fitness levels, rather than health-related outcomes – but fitness is closely linked to a reduced risk of numerous health problems, including diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
“Hence, an improved understanding of methods to improve fitness is expected to have far-reaching health implications,” says Nayor.
While it’s no surprise that MVPA is good for your fitness, few previous studies have analyzed both physical activity levels and aerobic fitness as closely as this study, in so many people at the same time.
Because the study participants were part of a long-term research project (the Framingham Heart Study), the team was able to compare two separate sets of data from the same people eight years apart to see the long-term effects of regular exercise.
There are also limitations to the study because exercise affects us all differently, and this study examines a range of similar middle-aged people from the same party of the world. Even so, it’s a clear indication of the fitness and health benefits of MVPA.
“These results are consistent with the notion that various forms of physical activity (particularly MVPA) are associated with cardiorespiratory fitness in the general public regardless of age, gender, BMI or cardiovascular disease status,” the researchers explain.
Originally published by Science Alert