What’s More Important: Exercise Intensity Or Duration?

Proper exercise needed for type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes metabolic syndrome management.

walking pre diabetes exercise and metabolic syndrome or pre-diabetesTwo studies have looked at the intensity of walking and cycling versus the duration of these exercise activities. I have previously posted on high intensity training (HIT). The duration vs. intensity of exercise are two variables that you can work with to find the best approach for you.  A recent study suggests that walking intensity is more important than duration.

Some people don’t have the option of considering high intesity exercise, and need to go at a slow pace for longer periods of time. That’s fine, but for those people that can occasionally push the intensity level up a bit, you can exercise for a shorter period of time, and get a good health benefit.

Current recommendations advise that every adult should accumulate 30 minutes or more of moderate physical activity 5-6 days per week. The optimal intensity, duration and frequency need to be adjusted for each individual, but a greater part of the daily physical activity in leisure time should be vigorous, and based on the individual’s own perception of intensity.

Occasionally shorten your walking time and increase the intensity.  It is important to vary your exercise movements and activities for maximum benefit with least effort (and we all know we want to apply the least effort).  You can use a pedometer to monitor your step-activity for daily living and count that as low-level activity.

bicycle type 2 diabetes exercise and prediabetes metabolic syndrome x managementIn addition to the walking study, a study conducted among cyclists also suggests that it is the relative intensity – and not the duration – of cycling that matters most.

The cycling researchers assessed 5,106 healthy men and women, ages 21 to 90 years, among the general population of Copenhagen, Denmark, and followed them for an average of 18 years. Among both men and woman, there was a significant association indicating that the greater the cycling intensity, the lower the risk of all-cause and coronary heart disease death. There was also an association to cycling duration, but it was weaker.

Men with fast intensity cycling survived 5.3 years longer, and men with average intensity 2.9 years longer than men with slow cycling intensity. For women the figures were 3.9 and 2.2 years longer, respectively.

So, as with walking, and probably most exercise activities, it is the relative intensity and not the duration of cycling that is of more importance in relation to all-cause and coronary heart disease mortality.

Both studies support the general recommendation that brisk cycling and walking is preferable to a slow-paced long duration, although there is still some benefit to the exercise at a slower pace.  If you do decide to pick up the pace, watch your heart rate, and stay in a good range of beats per minute.  Consider a heart rate monitor.

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About Robert Creighton

Dr. Creighton is a podiatrist and foot surgeon with over 26 years in podiatric practice treating thousands of patients afflicted with the physiological, physical, and psychological side effects and complications of diabetes and pre-diabetes metabolic syndrome. He believes these disorders present a pressing public health concern that need to be more actively addressed in a multidisciplinary way. Dr. Creighton graduated from what is now the Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine after receiving his undergraduate degree in Biology. He is certified by the American Board of Foot and Ankle Surgery, a member of the American Public Health Association, an American College of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer and a Member of the American Nutrition Association.

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