There has been a long debate over which exercise type is more beneficial for our health: Is it high intensity, which often requires setting aside time in your busy day to do some exercise; or is it low intensity, where even standing up can be considered as a beneficial physical activity?
Let’s start by looking at what intensity is, so that we can better understand how it relates to exercise and what benefits it can provide. The most important part of understanding exercise intensity is to understand how you feel while doing it – does the exercise seem hard and challenging, or does it seem easy and not require much effort? The answer should be reflected in your breathing and heart rate, whether you’re sweating and how tired your muscles feel.
High intensity physical activity is usually characterised by aerobic and strength training. These are the exercises that feel challenging, burn more calories, strengthen your muscles, heart and bones. Regular low intensity exercise can include even the lightest physical activity, like standing or walking up the stairs .
A new study by leading sports medicine specialists from the Sport Exercise and Health University College in London shows that low intensity exercise counts and can even dramatically improve your health and prolong your lifespan. So just a minor change in routine can lessen high blood pressure by almost 50%, reduce the risk of recurrent breast cancer by almost 50%, as well as the likelihood of colon cancer by over 60 %. The researchers argue that the high intensity exercises can actually discourage people from exercising all together, because they feel like they need to put extra effort into planning and executing the exercises. That is why they are making efforts to introduce the idea of low intensity exercises as a valuable part of your day, as long as they are performed regularly.
Whilst the benefits of low intensity exercises might be impressive, no one can deny the value that a higher intensity physical activity can bring, including controlling weight, reducing the risk of heart disease, and strengthening bones and muscles. High intensity workouts have been proven to be more effective than continuous moderate activity at improving cardiovascular, respiratory, metabolic and mechanical functions.
High or low intensity – or just the right balance?
The key to successful exercise introduction to your everyday life is choosing the right amount of intensity for your exercises. You will get the most from your workouts if you moderate the intensity by monitoring your heart rate and understanding of how you feel whilst doing the exercise, sensing if you need to pick it up a bit or slow down.
Balance and regularity are the key factors when speaking about physical activity; overdoing it can increase the risk of injury and burnout. Perhaps it’s better to start at a lower intensity and then gradually build up to a moderate or vigorous level.
So think about the reasons why are you exercising: Is it to lose weight, to keep in shape or to improve your health? It might be a great help if you think of it as a long term investment, not only the way to reach a certain goal.
It’s important to remember that any physical activity is going to improve your overall health, but taking the time to really invest efforts into your exercise will surely pay off in the long run.
Keep on moving!