Whether you lace up your sneakers for mile-long runs every morning or opt for a relaxing dip in the pool, most experts agree that you're doing yourself a favor by being active. But while every bit of exercise counts, new research suggests some types of activities are much more effective than others when it comes to keeping you healthy.
A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine on Monday revealed even small amounts of vigorous exercise could add years to your life expectancy. That means a 30-minute kickboxing class could be a better choice than an a solid hour of relaxing backstroke.
Researchers spent several years tracking the exercise habits and health of more than 200,000 Australian adults between the ages of 45 to 75. They divided subjects into three groups: those who only participated in moderate exercise, like leisurely swimming or daily chores; those who participated in vigorous exercise, like running or aerobics classes, up to 30 percent of the time; and those who exercised vigorously more than 30 percent of the time.
The group at the most strenuous level of exercise had a 13 percent lower mortality risk, while the group who exercised vigorously up to 30 percent of the time were 9 percent less likely to die early.
What's especially encouraging about these results, as the study's lead author Klaus Gebel told Forbes, is that the heath benefits of this kind of exercise apply to everyone, even those of us who aren't in the best shape.
“The results indicate that whether or not you are obese, and whether or not you have heart disease or diabetes, if you can manage some vigorous activity it could offer significant benefits for longevity," Gebel said to Forbes.
Gebel also said that he hoped this study would cause government agencies to change their guidelines for physical fitness.
While most countries already promote regular workouts as a way to improve overall health, very few differentiate between moderate and more vigorous exercise. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommendations, for example, only encourage everyone to accumulate 150 to 300 minutes of moderate exercise per week.
To take advantage of benefits described in this study, slowly try adding more vigorous exercises into your routine. Think of vigorous exercise as a 7 or 8 out of 10—that's how the Department of Health and Human Services describes it. Of course, it's best to consult a doctor before drastically changing your physical activity.
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Photo credit: m01229 via Flickr