Heart Health

Why this one type of exercise is three times better than walking

Originally Published: 
Carlotta Noratro via Giphy

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Tracking your daily 10,000 steps might seem like the easiest way to make sure you’re getting enough exercise.

But is light walking enough to boost your overall fitness level?

A new study suggests it’s not as effective as regular moderate to vigorous exercise.

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That might not be surprising, since there’s already a lot of research that suggests regular exercise is good for your body for a whole host of reasons.

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But an August 26 report in the European Heart Journal sought to measure just how much better certain types of physical activity are for your cardiovascular system.

The researchers recruited over 2,000 participants who were also part of the Framingham Heart Study, a multigenerational project that tracks family patterns of disease over several decades.


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When sedentary individuals increased their amount of moderate to vigorous exercise by just 17 minutes per day, the researchers saw their peak oxygen uptake (VO2) levels increase by 5 percent.

Both types of movement caused positive increases in VO2 levels, but the upward slope for moderate to vigorous exercise is higher.

Nayor, M. et. al./European Heart Journal

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What is moderate to vigorous exercise?

That’s measured by the intensity of an activity, rather than what activity you’re doing.

For this study, the researchers classified walking 66 to 99 steps per minute as low-level exertion, while 100 to 129 steps per minute as moderate, and 130+ as vigorous.

“... performing at least a moderate level of exercise is over three times more efficient than just walking at a relatively low cadence.”

Matthew Nayor, lead study author

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It seems that intentional exercise might do more for your cardiovascular system than just counting your steps.

But the researchers say that you shouldn’t discount daily, light movement when it comes to building a healthy lifestyle.

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“There is also ample evidence from other studies that higher step counts are associated with a host of favorable health outcomes. So, I would not want to dissuade people from following their step counts.”

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