Exercise is clearly good for you. There are thousands of studies demonstrating that fact. But what sort of intensity do you need to maximize potential health benefits? Is walking all you need? As it turns out, vigorous exercise is the most beneficial form of exercise.
What the Studies Say
Vigorous activities (jogging, swimming, singles tennis and biking fast) have been shown to improving aerobic fitness better than moderate intensity activity (walking fast, doubles tennis, and biking slowly) as measured by VO2max. Vigorous activity also appears to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, body fat and all-cause mortality to a greater degree than moderate activity, after controlling for total energy expended.
If that doesn’t convince you to pick up the pace, a Harvard study that took place over 20 years, found that vigorous activity predicted longevity to a much greater extent than light or moderate activity.
The More the Better?
When it comes to light or moderate physical activities, you really can’t get too much. But mounting evidence is beginning to show that there is a sweet spot in terms of the optimal amount of vigorous exercise. As you can see in the chart below, the health benefits of vigorous exercise flatten out at about 45 minutes a day.
More recent research out of the University of Virginia has begun to clarify where the vigorous exercise sweet spot is. The research shows that people who run 25 miles a week or more, actually are barely better off than those who don’t run at all. The best outcomes came to those who ran 10 to 20 miles a week.
Furthermore, they found that 2 -5 days a week at about a 10 minute/ mile pace is ideal.
(Note: 7 miles per hour translates to an 8:34 mile.
If you aren’t in great shape, then obviously do as much as you can. But, if you can handle vigorous activity, then by all means do it. Aim for 2- 5 times a week (depending on your goals) for about 45 minutes a day. Of course, choose an activity you enjoy doing. You’ll have more fun and you’ll be more likely to stick with it. Good luck!