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Every minute of brisk exercise has weight control benefits, study finds

Sept. 13, 2013

Every minute of brisk exercise counts: that’s the message that researchers are taking from their recent study results. Their research showed that even very short bursts of moderate to vigorous exercise are beneficial for body mass index (BMI). In fact, they are just as beneficial to BMI as longer bouts of exercise.

That means that it really is worth it to do all those little things like take the stairs, run an errand on foot, and park farther away so you can walk briskly to the door. The study found that as long as the activity is of moderate to vigorous intensity, bursts of exercise shorter than 10 minutes may help maintain a healthy weight. Moderate to vigorous activities include climbing stairs and walking briskly.

Current health guidelines recommend getting 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate to vigorous exercise per week, in bouts of 10 minutes or longer. However, many adults may find it difficult to meet this goal.

Researchers at the University of Utah looked at whether bouts of exercise shorter than 10 minutes, which are easier to fit into a busy week, were useful for weight control. They used BMI and exercise information on 4,511 adults ages 18 to 64. All of the people in the study had worn an accelerometer – a device that measures physical activity – for one week.

When the researchers added up the total amount of time that individuals spent doing vigorous activities, the results showed that people spent more time exercising vigorously in short bouts (less than 10 minutes at a time) than they did in longer bouts.

The results also showed that time spent in short bouts of brisk exercise was linked to lower BMI and lower risk of being overweight. In fact, every minute spent in these short bouts was as beneficial to BMI as minutes spent in long bouts.

Time spent doing lower-intensity activities, such as walking at a leisurely pace, had no effect on BMI or risk of being overweight.

These results suggest that in terms of weight management, even very short bursts of physical activity provide benefits. However, it’s important to note that this research did not study whether these short bursts of activity had any effect on other health factors, such as heart and lung health.

The study was published in the September/October 2013 issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion.


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  • Women's College Hospital