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Taking a guilt-free break

Heat got you down? Maybe you've abandoned your exercise program as temperatures across the country tickled record highs?

If you have, and you're feeling a little guilty, don't worry. Your body may still be benefiting from what you were doing — even if you were barely breaking a sweat while you were moving.

A study published in the latest issue of The Journal of Applied Physiology suggests that a "modest amount of moderately intense exercise is the best way to lower the level of a key blood marker linked to higher risk of heart disease and diabetes."

That marker is triglycerides, the particles that carry fat around the body. Reducing your triglyceride level cuts your risk of heart disease and diabetes.

The researchers studied 240 middle-aged, sedentary people who were put into one of four groups:

  • Lots of intense exercise.
  • Less exercise but at a high intensity.
  • Less exercise at a moderate intensity.
  • No exercise at all.

The researchers found that triglyceride levels stayed low even two weeks after people in the study group were told to stop exercising.

But what really surprised them was what happened to the study participants who were put on an intense exercise program. Their triglyceride levels did not stay as low two weeks after they stopped exercising as the levels reached for people doing moderate exercise — like 30 minutes of walking every day.

What didn't surprise them was what happened to the group that did no exercise: over six months, they put on about one kilogram and added a centimetre or so to their waistlines. Doesn't sound like much — but keep that up for 10 years and you may be knocking on obesity's door.

The bottom line is that you may not need as much exercise as you thought in order to make big changes in your life. You don't have to slog through a 10 kilometre run when the humidex is touching 40 degrees and that new-fangled air quality health index is moving closer to 10.

The American Heart Association and the American College of Sports Medicine recently revised their exercise guidelines:

Do moderately intense cardio 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
Or
Do vigorously intense cardio 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week.
And
Do eight to 10 strength-training exercises, eight to 12 repetitions of each exercise twice a week.

The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends 60 minutes every day — but not necessarily all at once. By breaking it up into easily manageable chunks, getting enough shouldn't be much of a challenge.

Then maybe you wouldn't need to take to take a break from exercising and worry that you might be slipping back into that sedentary lifestyle.

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