Why High Intensity Is Optimal
- A study published in european heart journalstudied nearly 72,000 participants who wore fitness trackers that provided exercise intensity data and found that those with the lowest rates of cardiovascular disease were those who engaged in consistent high-intensity activity.
- Vigorous physical activity, which can be measured with a talking test — you should only be able to speak a few words — can reduce the risk of death by up to 40 percent for about 15 to 20 minutes a week.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' physical activity guidelines for Americans recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week. But new research suggests that if you only choose the first option, you may be missing out on a major avenue for reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease.
The study was published in european heart journal, studied nearly 72,000 participants who wore fitness trackers that provided exercise intensity data.This is important because most large-scale studies of exercise intensity and volume tend to rely on participant questionnaires, said lead author Dr Paddy Dempsey, a research fellow at the University of Leicester, UK.
He says ride a bike People have difficulty recalling accurately all their activities, especially those everyday activities that are not classified as exercise. For example, running to catch the bus would be a high-intensity activity but would likely not be recorded on a self-report questionnaire.
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Using these data, the researchers compared activity frequency and intensity with the development of cardiovascular disease over nearly seven years. They found that overall strength was strongly associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, and that the link was especially strong among those who engaged in regular moderate to vigorous physical activity. Participants with the lowest rates of cardiovascular disease were those who engaged in consistent high-intensity activity.
Performing about 15 to 20 minutes of vigorous exercise per week was associated with up to a 40 percent reduction in mortality at the end of the follow-up period, compared with those with lower volume and intensity who did not see this advantage.
“We found that there was considerable benefit within the currently recommended 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise,” Dempsey said. “Even just 15 minutes can make a difference.”
That's an important takeaway, he added, because previous studies have shown that only 20 percent of middle-aged and older adults reported engaging in vigorous physical activity for at least 15 consecutive minutes. But the workout doesn't need to be continuous, he said.
“Our results show that performing short bouts lasting up to two minutes four times a day is associated with a significantly lower risk of mortality,” he said. “These stimulate the cardiorespiratory system and lead to measurable cardiovascular adaptations.”
Another recent study came to similar conclusions.published in a magazine cycle, Researchers looked at about 95,000 participants who wore fitness trackers over a two-year period and found that moderate to vigorous exercise was associated with a lower risk of heart failure — but the more vigorous the participants, the greater the risk reduction .
How can you apply it to your next ride?The definition of moderate-to-vigorous intensity is individual, according to the journal review Frontiers in Physiology. An easy way to measure this is by taking the talking test — the best you can say is a few words during vigorous exercise without pausing to catch your breath. Using this as a guide, doing sprints for at least a few minutes can give your cardio a nice boost and possibly improve your cycling performance.
Elizabeth Millard is a freelance writer focused on health, wellness, fitness and food.
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