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Short Exercise Bouts as Effective as Long Session

Short Exercise Bouts as Effective as Long Session

October 17, 2001 By Suzanne Rostler

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Individuals who forego exercise for lack of time may need to find a new excuse, results of a new study suggest. According to the report, short bursts of activity are just as effective as one long session when it comes to burning calories, losing weight and improving aerobic fitness.

The researchers examined the effects of three 10-minute bouts of exercise, two 15-minute bouts, one 30-minute session or no exercise in 30 overweight, female college students over a 12-week period.

The women in the study, who had a body mass index (BMI) of at least 28, were put on a calorie-restricted diet. BMI is a measure of weight in relation to height. A person with a BMI of 25 or more is considered to be overweight, and one whose BMI is at least 30 is classified as obese.

The results show that aerobic capacity increased while BMI and body fat declined significantly in all exercising groups. Body weight and body fat increased in the women who did not exercise, according to the report in the October issue of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

"For some, working in three 10-minute bouts may be easier than trying to find time for one continuous 30-minute bout," Dr. W. Daniel Schmidt, the study's lead author, told Reuters Health. "There is no question that the overall health of Americans would improve dramatically if that guideline were followed."

National guidelines recommend that Americans engage in at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day.

Schmidt, from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, added that it is not clear whether exercising in spurts would have an impact on obesity in America, where more than 50% of adults are estimated to be obese. Successful weight loss programs, he said, depend on both sound diet and regular exercise.

Nonetheless, the findings add to a growing body of research on the beneficial effects of even short periods of activity. One recent study found that 10 minutes of moderate exercise daily can improve mood and reduce fatigue. Another study reported that just 2 minutes of stair climbing several times a day can lower total cholesterol, raise HDL ("good") cholesterol, and improve the resting pulse rate in sedentary young women.

SOURCE: Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2001;20:494-501.

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