Time Vs. Intensity: What Matters Most in a Workout
Time Vs. Intensity: What Matters Most in a Workout

When it comes to working out, slow and steady may be the way to go.

Longer periods of slower, less-intense exercise — or simply moving more throughout the day — might be better for you than the short, high-intensity interval workouts that have garnered praise in recent years, a new study published in PLOS One finds.

When normal-weight participants burned a similar amount of calories through either short, intense workouts or longer periods of standing and walking, the group that stood and walked more had improved cholesterol levels and insulin response compared to the vigorous exercisers. Not that this effect was easy to come by: The group that completed longer periods of low-intensity exercise substituted six hours of sitting with four hours of walking and two hours of standing every day.

Previous studies have found that short bursts of intense interval training are more effective for fat loss than longer, steady state cardio. This new study doesn’t mean than getting your heart rate up and adding strength training to your day isn’t important — it’s just the latest evidence that simply baking more activity into your day in addition to regular trips to the gym can have a big benefit. (Another recent study found that standing more reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes.)

Researchers call this the “use it, or lose it” effect, noting that just standing up provides a kind of wake-up call for your body that boosts physiological system functioning.

Taking walking meetings at the office can help you fit in fitness and also clear your mind while you work. You can also squeeze in push-ups, squats, and other fast body-weight exercises on your lunch break, when you wake up in the morning, and just before bed. If you take public transportation, always stand on the train or bus and get off a stop or two earlier to squeeze in extra steps. If you drive, park farther away from your destination, or see if you can swap your car for a bike a day or two a week.

The most important thing you can do is make standing up and moving around part of your to-do list like you would any other task — giving yourself a specific time and place for movement.

When you move more, your body and mind will thank you.

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