For quite some time now, doctors recommend that people get at least 150 minutes of moderate activity each week, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. But after a recent Australian study of over 204,000 middle-age and older adults over a six year period, researchers think that the second option is better than the first option at prolonging your life.
The research found that people who performed vigorous exercise (jogging, competitive tennis, basketball, sprints) had a 9 to 13 percent lower risk of mortality than participants who reported engaging in moderate activities (gardening, housecleaning, gentle swimming). Mortality is synonymous with crude death, which is the number of deaths occurring among the sample population during a given year.
But within the category of vigorous exercise, there is also a separation between good and great. The report touts interval training (or high intensity interval training/HIIT) as a better form of vigorous exercise than steady-state cardio at prolonging life. Those who reported doing more intense training often lived longer. High interval interval training is a form of cardiovascular exercise that switches between intervals of maximum exertion and rest. For instance, switching between sprinting for 30 seconds at maximum speed followed by resting for 30 seconds is a form of interval training. HIIT ranges between 4 minutes to 30 minutes. Steady-state cardio is what we usually think of when we think about cardio, like jogging 4 miles or even running a marathon.
Vigorous activity seems to be good for everyone, not just the healthy. The authors of the study said this about vigorous activity:
The results indicate that whether or not you are obese, and whether or not you have heart disease or diabetes, if you can manage some vigorous activity it could offer significant benefits for longevity.
Essentially, vigorous exercise benefits everyone—young, old, disabled, etc.
If you are able to do 75 minutes of jogging per week, that is great. However, if you are able to mix your steady-state cardio with more intense cardio, you can reap a bit more benefit.
The research study basically says what has already been said many times before, get your butt off the couch and go exercise a few times a week. It will make you live longer. However, the surprising news in the study is that the more vigorous the exercise is, the longer one seems to live.
When searching for ways to prevent premature aging and death, nothing does a better job than a good diet and regular exercise.