Moderate, vigorous exercise one of the best exercises for getting fit and staying healthy

Woman exercising with hand weights.

A recently published study showed that greater physical fitness can be achieved when you spend more time performing moderate but vigorous exercise (biking, hiking, dancing) and low-to-moderate level of activity, and less time being sedentary.

To reach this conclusion, researchers studied approximately 2,000 participants from the community-based Framingham Heart Study who underwent comprehensive cardiopulmonary exercise tests (CPET) – the “gold standard” measurement of physical fitness. The researchers were able to measure physical by obtaining physical activity data through accelerometers that participants wore for one week around the time of CPET and approximately eight years earlier.

They found that dedicated moderate, but vigorous physical activity was the most efficient at improving fitness. Specifically, exercise was three times more efficient than walking alone and more than 14 times more efficient than reducing the time spent sedentary. Additionally, they found that the greater time spent exercising and higher steps/day could partially offset the negative effects of being sedentary in terms of physical fitness.

Although the study focused on the relationship of physical activity and fitness rather than a health-related outcome, the researchers suggest that fitness has a powerful influence on health and is associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and premature death. The study, which appears in the European Heart Journal, was funded by NHLBI.