YOU might be under the impression that losing weight requires you to spend hours slogging away in the gym. But according to scientists, just one extra minute of brisk activity every day can help burn off unwanted pounds.
Researchers monitored the activity of 4,500 adults, and discovered that how often you exercise your heart and lungs matters more than the duration of the workout. They found that several short bursts of exertion had the same effect as longer, but less frequent spells of exercise.
Those short bursts could include taking the stairs instead of the lift, parking further away from the shops and walking, or getting off the bus one stop early.
Lead researcher Dr Jessie Fan, from the University of Utah, said: "What we learned is that for preventing weight gain, the intensity of the activity matters more than duration.
"Knowing that even short bouts of brisk activity can add up to a positive effect is really an encouraging message for promoting better health." In the study, volunteers wore accelerometers - devices which can accurately measure movement and activity. Participants also had their body mass index (BMI) recorded. This measures weight in relation to height.
Researchers found that, for women, every minute spent in higher-intensity short bouts of activity every day was associated with a BMI reduction of 0.07. The results showed that one minute of brisk activity each day offsets the calorie equivalent of 0.41lb in weight.
The scientists explained that this means if a 5ft 5in woman regularly took the stairs at work, she would weigh nearly half a pound less than a woman of the same height who took the lift. The results were similar for men.
Each daily minute of higher-intensity activity lowered the likelihood of being obese by two per cent for men and five per cent for women. But the study found that, on average, the women who were having their movements monitored were less physically active than the men.
The report, which was published in the American Journal of Health Promotion, said: "Taking the stairs, walking to the store or between errands are choices that can add up and can end up making a positive health difference.
"The message is: a little more effort can have an important health payback.' Many British adults fail to reach the NHS guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise a week; in bouts of 10 minutes or more. And most adults in the study who had been attached to the accelerometers did not meet exercise recommendations.
But once short bouts of activity were taken into account, men managed to exceed the guidelines, while women came close to meeting them.
- UK Daily Mail