Walking Is Good, But Moderate-Vigorous Exercise Boosts Fitness 3x More

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Exercise is healthy. That is common knowledge. But just how rigorous should that exercise be in order to really impact a person’s fitness level? And, if you sit all day at a desk, but still manage to get out and exercise, does that negate your six, seven, or eight hours of sedentary behavior? 

These were the sort of questions Matthew Nayor and his team at Boston University School of Medicine set out to answer in the largest study to date aimed at understanding the relationship between regular physical activity and a person’s physical fitness. 

Their findings, which appear in the European Heart Journal, came from a study of approximately 2,000 participants from the Framingham Heart Study. They found that bouts of moderate to vigorous exercise—working out with more intensity than, say, walking 10,000 steps over the course of a day—drastically improved a person’s fitness, compared to milder forms of exercise.

“By establishing the relationship between different forms of habitual physical activity and detailed fitness measures,” Nayor says, “we hope that our study will provide important information that can ultimately be used to improve physical fitness and overall health across the life course.” 

Nayor, a BU School of Medicine assistant professor of medicine, is also a cardiologist specializing in heart failure at Boston Medical Center, BU’s primary teaching hospital and the city of Boston’s safety net hospital. The Brink caught up with Nayor to explain the results of the study and what people should know about exercise in relation to fitness.

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