Low intensity exercise and health

I was provoked by Dr Kevin Fong’s Horizon documentary on the role of new health measurement to do some reading on the benefits of low intensity exercise on health. In passing he looked at pedometers and the effect they had on encouraging movement. He noted that low intensity exercise was observed to have a stronger effect on metabolism and physiology than high intensity. It’s that which got me reading.

It turns out that this is essentially correct. Low intensity exercise of the same calorific value as high intensity exercise is better at controlling plasma lipids and insulin response. Four hours walking and 2 hours standing was more beneficial that 1 hour of intense exercise for these indicators of metabolism and health. But it’s not just these markers that low intensity exercise helps with. Low intensity exercise also effective method for downregulating IGF-I and upregulating IGFBP-1 levels, reduces vascular occlusion in elderly people, promote clearance of proatherogenic lipids from the vasculature.

Personally I exercise to enable myself to do the activities I find fulfilling and I see the health effects as secondary, so I’m not going to give up the gym or the road in response to the changing face of evidence promoting low intensity. But I have made two changes. First, I have converted to a standing desk in the office. I figure I spent too much time sitting at the desk anyway so if I can promote my posture and my health with this simple change all the better. Second, I have downloaded a pedometer on my cellphone so that I can keep to around 10,000 steps a day. These two measures in combination with the high intensity exercise  and the 2 days per week intermittent fasting I follow I hope will take me closer to my personal health goals.


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