Many people make a new year’s resolution to lose those unwanted, extra Christmas pounds by reducing how much they eat and increasing the amount of exercise they do.
Scientists at the University of Bath have examined how long people should exercise for and with what intensity.
Many people blame lack of time for not exercising, and others opt for briefer, more intensive sessions in the gym to make all their commitments fit into busy schedules.
The scientists discovered that more demanding exercise does not in itself bring health benefits that people cannot get from longer but more moderate activity – exercise that may be more suitable for people who have traditionally been less active.
Providing the overall number of calories burned over a day or a week does not differ, people who have gone for what may seem like the easier option may do just as well in shedding fat and improving their health.
As part of the study, 38 sedentary and overweight men and post-menopausal women with an average age of 52 were asked to exercise five times per week and cut the number of calories consumed through food and drink.
Half the participants exercised vigorously on a treadmill, whilst the other half at moderate-intensity.
Before and after the three-week monitoring period, participants had blood insulin measured and biopsies of fat tissue taken, with surprising results.
Both groups lost the same amount of weight and improvements in insulin sensitivity and metabolic health were detected in both groups – with a similar reduction in fat mass, blood pressure, cholesterol and a range of other measures.
Positive changes in the activation of genes within fat cells in both groups were also found, highlighting benefits within the fat tissue itself.
The vast majority of these changes were unaffected by the intensity of the exercise.