According to a national study published this month in the American Journal of Health Education, moderate-intensity physical activity, such as slow walking, might not be helpful in losing weight.
"Although moderate-intensity physical activity does provide numerous health benefits, such as reducing blood pressure and risks for systemic inflammation and type 2 diabetes, you better increase the intensity of your activity to lose weight unless you exercise more than an hour almost every day," said Dong-Chul Seo, lead author of the article and an assistant professor in Indiana University Bloomington's Department of Applied Health Science.
Here are some of the major findings and observations in the study, titled "Differences in vigorous and moderate physical activity by gender, race/ethnicity, age, education, and income among U.S. adults," coauthored by Mohammad Torabi, chair of the Department of Applied Health Science:
* People who reported meeting the guidelines for vigorous physical activity were less likely to be overweight or obese. There was no such relationship, however, between people who met moderate physical activity guidelines and their overweight or obesity status.
* "Given the lack of evidence about the efficacy of moderate-intensity physical activity on reducing body weight, health practitioners need to be cautious against providing expectations that people could lose substantial weight by engaging in moderage physical activity," the authors wrote.
* The study confirmed findings by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that a higher percentage of Americans are meeting the moderate physical activity guideline. Seo's study found that 48 percent of Americans reported meeting this guideline, up from just 15 percent in 1997. "We still have a long way to go," Seo said. "Less than a half of Americans meet either the vigorous or moderate physical activity guideline."
* Note: For the study, researchers used physical activity guideline recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and reflected in Healthy People 2010, the health objectives for the nation to achieve over the first decade of the 21st century. Vigorous physical activity: Exercise for at least 20 minutes in a manner that makes one sweat or breathe hard, doing this three or more days in a week. Moderate physical activity: Exercise for at least 30 minutes in a manner that does not make one sweat or breathe hard, doing this for five or more days in a week.
Seo cautioned that making an active lifestyle a habit, regardless of the intensity of the exercise, is more important than exercising vigorously.
"Many obese or older adults would benefit more through moderate-intensity physical activity. Research indicates that obese or elderly people tend to adhere more to moderate activity than to vigorous activity."