Eye-catching new research suggests regular, moderate-intensity exercise like jogging and hiking can torch abdominal fat and slash blood pressure better than high-intensity training.

A new study by the University of Guelph, published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, found that regular moderate-intensity exercise is better than high-intensity training at burning abdominal fat, lowering blood pressure and improving blood sugar control.

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In the experiment, one group of subjects performed HIIT on stationary bikes three times a week, focusing on four to six reps of 30-second maximal efforts, with two minutes’ rest between each effort. Another group rode five times a week, but at a gentle pace which they could sustain for 30 to 40 minutes.

The researchers found that the moderate-intensity group enjoyed lower body fat, healthier blood pressure and improved blood glucose regulation than those who did the less frequent but more demanding high-intensity intervals.

The benefits of moderate-intensity exercise

While HIIT delivered some major benefits, enhancing aerobic fitness and increasing lean muscle mass, long-term health benefits are triggered by a more consistent, but comfortable, exercise regime.

“All exercise is good exercise, whether it’s fast, furious and infrequent, or slow, steady and sustainable,” explains lead author Dr Jamie Burr, an associate professor in the university’s Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences.

“But compared to infrequent interval training, daily moderate exercise appears to be more effective at improving blood pressure and at blood glucose control.”

Dr Burr and his colleagues concluded that not every workout we do has to be a sweat-drenched suffer-fest: moderate-intensity activities (think steady weights work, jogging, hiking, cycling and swimming) at just 50-70 per cent of your maximum heart rate – for 30 minutes or longer, five times per week – can trigger a surprisingly powerful boost to your health and fitness.


Words: Mark Bailey