The risks of heart disease could be lowered just as effectively by short bursts of exercise as longer endurance sessions, according to research.
A study on teenagers discovered that fast, intense sprints could help cut the risks linked to heart disease equally as much as 20-minute runs.
A total of 57 boys and girls were divided into three groups for the research, later published in the American Journal of Human Biology.
Over a period of seven weeks, all the participants performed three weekly exercise sessions.
One group worked at moderate intensity (MOD), which involved 20 minutes of continuous running within a 20m area at 70% maximum oxygen uptake.
The second high intensity group (HIT) repeated sprints as quickly as possible within a 20m area, with 20 to 30 seconds recovery in between, while the third group acted as a control.
The total time spent exercising was 420 minutes for the MOD group and 63 minutes for the HIT group.
Those in the MOD group burned more than four times as many calories but both groups saw improvements in factors that could lead to heart disease.
In the HIT group there were significant improvements in blood pressure, aerobic fitness and body mass index.
In the MOD group, there were significant improvements in aerobic fitness, percentage body fat, body mass index and levels of insulin.
Overall, traditional endurance exercise appeared to have had the greatest effect on heart disease risk over the seven weeks.
The researchers, from the University of the West of Scotland, concluded: “These findings demonstrate that brief, intense exercise is a time-efficient means for improving cardiovascular disease risk factors in adolescents.
“Overall, results of the study indicated that the two exercise programmes had distinct cardioprotective effects on adolescent youth.”
- Buchan DS, et al. The effects of time and intensity of exercise on novel and established markers of CVD in adolescent youth. American Journal of Human Biology 2011; Advance online publiation
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