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The BBC's Sean Brickell
"Research has cast doubt on the benefits of high energy workouts"
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Wednesday, 28 March, 2001, 18:22 GMT 19:22 UK
'Little and often' key to exercise benefits
Housework BBC
Housework counts as a high-intensity activity
Dragging yourself to the gym once a week, or even vacuuming the house from top to bottom, are not the best ways to improve your fitness, say researchers.

Moderate exercise fitted into daily life is much more likely to benefit your overall health, recommends a Dutch study featured in the journal Nature.

Attempts to counteract the negative of sedentary living include introducing high-intensity exercise

Professor Klass Westerterp,
Maastricht University
The research looked at the effectiveness of several different types of exercise. It studied 30 adults, aged between 22 and 32, and asked them what kind of activities they pursued.

Exercise was categorised into low - lying, sitting or standing; moderate - walking and cycling; and high - housework, gymnastics and sport.

Professor Klass Westerterp, from the Maastricht University, who led the study, said the results showed that bursts of high-impact activity were less effective than introducing a moderate level of exercise into daily life.

He assessed the physical activity level of the adults studied. To do that, he used a portable motion sensor fitted to the study participants. The sensor measured how much energy was used.

He found that those who spent more time doing a moderate level of exercise expended more energy overall than those who did short bursts of high intensity exercise - and were then relatively inactive.

Moderation praised

The Dutch team writes in Nature: "Attempts to counteract the negative of sedentary living include introducing high-intensity exercise.

"It can be more effective to increase the amount of time spent on activity of moderate intensity while reducing periods of inactivity during waking hours.

"Subjects wanting to increase their metabolic rate should exchange low-intensity activities, such as sitting in front of a screen, for moderate-intensity activities, such as walking or cycling."

They add: "Moderate-intensity activities are better tolerated than high-intensity activities, especially by the middle-aged or obese."

Andree Deane, chair of the Fitness Industry Association, told BBC News Online that people could go to the gym and do moderate exercise safely.

"The general public is most concerned about the effectiveness of exercise, and how much time do I have to spend to look different."

She added: "We still say that some exercise is better than no exercise, so one session is better that no exercise at all."

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