Vitality

Vigorous Exercise That Makes You Sweat Could Prevent An Early Death

hiking
Hiking, running, and competitive sports are all considered "vigorous activity." Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Exercise, any kind of it — from taking a walk around the block every two hours to running 15 miles — is better for you than sitting all day. But the very best type of exercise, it turns out, is any kind that makes you breathe hard and sweat a lot.

According to a new study out of James Cook University, any physical activity that makes you sweat (generally considered vigorous exercise) will protect you from a variety of chronic diseases and death. In the study, the researchers analyzed 204,542 people over the course of six years, and compared and contrasted the people who took part in moderate activity (gentle swimming, social tennis, or household chores) to those who exercised more vigorously (jogging, aerobics, competitive tennis). It turns out that the risk of mortality among people who exercised intensely was nine to 13 percent lower compared to moderate exercisers.

“The benefits of vigorous activity applied to men and women of all ages, and were independent of the total amount of time spent being active,” Dr. Klaus Gebel, a lead author of the study, said in the press release. “The results indicate that whether or not you are obese, and whether or not you have heart disease or diabetes, if you can manage some vigorous activity it could offer significant benefits for longevity.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the recommended amount of exercise for adults aged 18 to 64 is about two hours and 30 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, OR one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity. The CDC makes it appear as though you can substitute one for the other with similar effects, but this study questions that belief.

“The guidelines leave individuals to choose their level of exercise intensity, or a combination of levels, with two minutes of moderate exercise considered the equivalent of one minute of vigorous activity,” Dr. Melody Ding, a co-author of the study, said in the press release. “It might not be the simple two-for-one swap that is the basis of the current guidelines. Our research indicates that encouraging vigorous activities may help to avoid preventable deaths at an earlier age.”

While you might rely on your nightly walks, easy bike rides or gentle jogs, perhaps it’s time to carve out one day a week where your exercise routine becomes a little more vigorous. Doing sprints to break up your jogging will make your body work harder — and your runner’s high will be even better afterward. Recognize that washing the dishes, walking to the train, or cleaning are all considered light to moderate exercise and you should try to push yourself more at least once a week to reach the optimal level of physical activity.

Source:  Gebel K, et al. Physical activity and all-cause mortality in middle-aged and older Australians. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2015.

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