Page last updated at 17:56 GMT, Monday, 3 November 2008

Child's play 'better than a jog'

Children playing
Short sharp bursts of activity were recommended by the researchers

Running around like a child in a playground may be better for you than traditional grown-up ways of taking exercise like jogging and cycling.

Researchers have found short sharp sprints of up to 30 seconds could be as beneficial as doing up to five sessions of an hour's exercise a week.

Fewer than one in three adults in Wales follow recommended exercise guidelines.

The University of Glamorgan research found shorter bursts of exercise could be more practical to follow.

The university studied the exercise patterns over several years, comparing short high-intensity sprints to longer endurance training, such as cycling and jogging.

Prof Julien Baker, who conducted the research with Prof Bruce Davies, said: "Six 30-second sprints three times a week can have the same health and weight-loss benefits as jogging or cycling for up to 45 minutes several times a week.

Kayleigh Ryle
I think most people would find it stupid and would be embarrassed
Kayleigh Ryle

The university said according to the latest figures reveal only 29% of adults in Wales last year said they were doing 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity at least five days a week.

Only 41% of primary school children and about 25% of secondary school children in Wales achieve the current hour-a-day activity target.

Prof Baker said a 30m to 100m sprint, lasting up to 30 seconds, with four-minute rest periods in between, would be beneficial.

"High-intensity programmes are much easier to administer and more practical in terms of adherence.

"For children who are overweight or obese, it may be better to put them on an intermittent programme of high-intensity exercise for a short period."

He added: "This type of activity may also be used as a defence for cardiovascular disease, and research carried out in the laboratory has shown significant reductions in post exercise blood pressure.

"These findings indicate that intermittent exercise may provide similar benefits as prolonged moderate exercise in the treatment for hypertension.

Jessica Evans
Student Jessica Evans said she would not mind exercising in short bursts

The academic said more research is need to fully understand the mechanisms involved in providing maximum results from high-intensity exercise as a possible treatment for people with high blood pressure.

"The exciting aspect of this type of exercise is that this can be performed anywhere - in the street or on a pavement - and you do not need to have sophisticated equipment or buy expensive trainers and kit.

"The energy is expended so it will also be good for weight management."

Sebastian Navarro, 25, an ex-army officer and a sports conditioning instructor at the Fitness First gym in Wrexham, said the idea worked on a similar principle to some exercise routines used by the military.

"It's called interval training. It's a very useful way of training for the majority of people, because few people in the general population are going to do an hour or an hour-and-a-half of constant training.

"When it comes down to it, most people do some form of short bursts of exercises - running for the bus or dashing to pick the kids up, said Mr Navarro.

"It's a useful training aid and it encourages people to have fun - that's always a good thing."

Student Kayleigh Ryle, 16, from Mold, Flintshire, said: "I think it's a bit stupid. I do walking and horse-riding, I don't go to the gym or anything.

"I think most people would find it stupid and would be embarrassed."

But Jessica Evans, 17, a student from Wrexham, said: "It makes sense to me. I would do it. I wouldn't worry about being embarrassed if it was good for me."

The University of Glamorgan researchers are collaborating with McMaster University in Canada to examine the potential benefits of high intensity exercise and its usefulness in the management of cardiovascular disease.

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