Why It’s Better To Run Than Jog

By Dan Peterson, TeamSnap's Sports Science Expert


When it comes to exercise, most of us want the quick fix. Workout programs on TV promote “10-minute abs” or 25 minute “all-in-one” DVDs that promise the “toned look you’ve always wanted” without spending hours in the gym. Under the category of too-good-to-be-true, we know that it probably will take more than that. Now, a new study out of Australia gives us the ultimate truth: if we want to live longer, we need to do “vigorous” activity regularly.

When the World Health Organization came out with their physical activity guidelines a few years ago, they seemed to offer a trade-off. They, along with national health authorities in the U.S., U.K. and Australia, recommended either 150 minutes of moderate activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week. 

Given this 2 for 1 swap, many people opt for the lower intensity exercise rather than a faster, lung-burning pace. Now, one person’s moderate may be another person’s vigorous depending on their current fitness level, but a few jogs per week sounded more fun than all-out sprints.

According the U.K.’s National Health Service:

“Moderate intensity aerobic exercise is where you're working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break into a sweat. You're working at a moderate intensity if you're able to talk but unable to sing the words to a song.

Vigorous intensity aerobic exercise is where you're breathing hard and fast and your heart rate has increased significantly. If you're working at this level, you won't be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.”

"The guidelines leave individuals to choose their level of exercise intensity, or a combination of levels, with two minutes of moderate exercise considered the equivalent of one minute of vigorous activity," said Dr Melody Ding from the University of Sydney's School of Public Health. "It might not be the simple two-for-one swap that is the basis of the current guidelines.”

Dr. Ding, along with a team of researchers, wondered if relying only on moderate exercise would make a difference to the ultimate measure of good health. So, from 2006 to 2014, they observed a whopping 204,542 adults from the Sax Institute's 45 and Up study, which has health data on more than 267,000 Australian men and women aged 45 and older who live in New South Wales. From ongoing reports of their physical activity, they were separated into three groups; those that said none of their exercise was vigorous, up to 30% was vigorous and more than 30% was vigorous.

Over those eight years, there were 7,435 participant deaths. For the group who vigorously exercised more than 30% of the time, their mortality rate during that period was 13% less than the group who never reached that level. Even those that only worked out at a vigorous level up to 30% of the time had a mortality rate 9% less than the moderate-only group.

"The benefits of vigorous activity applied to men and women of all ages, and were independent of the total amount of time spent being active," said lead author Dr Klaus Gebel, from James Cook University's Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention. "The results indicate that whether or not you are obese, and whether or not you have heart disease or diabetes, if you can manage some vigorous activity it could offer significant benefits for longevity."

Their research appears in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Getting to that breathless, “huffing and puffing” state could benefit all of us, once we get cleared by a doctor.

"Our research indicates that even small amounts of vigorous activity could help reduce your risk of early death," Dr Gebel said. "Previous studies indicate that interval training, with short bursts of vigorous effort, is often manageable for older people, including those who are overweight or obese. For those with medical conditions, for older people in general, and for those who have never done any vigorous activity or exercise before, it's always important to talk to a doctor first.”

So, crank up that treadmill or get out and conquer some hills. In the long run, it will be worth it.

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Dan Peterson is a recovering sports dad who is fascinated with sports science research, skill development and the athlete’s brain. He has written over 400 science-based articles across the Web and consults with parents, coaches and young players to help them understand the cognitive side of sports. You can visit him at Sports Are 80 Percent Mental and at @DanielPeterson.

Release Date: May 06 2015

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