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Exercise: is more better for you?

Gentle exercise or vigorous exercise: the right intensity and amount is under debate, Lesley Dobson examines the latest controversy

Woman running, a high intensity exercise
Is more exercise better for you?

While it’s vital to start exercising gently, and build up steadily, there are different schools of thought regarding just how much effort you should aim to put into your work-out.

In a paper published in the journal Preventive Medicine, Dr Gary O’Donovan, exercise physiologist from the University of Exeter’s School of Sport and Health Sciences, found that most middle aged and older adults were not aware of the relationship between the intensity of exercise done and the degree of health benefits gained.

"Time and time again the largest and most robust studies have shown that vigorously active individuals live longer and enjoy a better quality of life than moderately active individuals and couch potatoes," says Dr O’Donovan.

The research team that produced the paper believes that 30 minutes of brisk walking a day may be enough to reduce the risk of breast cancer, but regular participation in vigorous exercise is probably needed to reduce the risk of prostate and colorectal cancers.

"Brisk walking offers some health benefits, but jogging, running and other vigorous activities offer maximal protection from disease," explains Dr O’Donovan.

"Sedentary adults should complete a six to twelve week programme of moderate exercise before considering a programme of vigorous exercise. Men older than 45 and women older than 55 should consult their GP before taking up vigorous exercise."


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.