By Annie Hauser
High-intensity interval workouts have long been praised for their weight-loss benefit, but when it comes to overall health, simply moving for longer periods of time every day might be best, researchers from Masstricht University say. Their findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE.
When normal-weight participants burned a similar amount of calories through either short, intense workouts or longer periods of standing and walking, the group that stood and walked more had improved cholesterol levels and insulin response compared to the vigorous exercisers. This effect wasn't easy to come by, however: The group that completed longer periods of low-intensity exercise substituted six hours of sitting with four hours of walking and two hours of standing every day.
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Still, this finding underscores what we already know, lead researcher Hans Savelberg says, that too much sitting is unhealthy in and of itself, regardless of the total number of calories burned through daily exercise.
"[The findings] imply that if you exercise for half an hour each day and sit for most of the rest of the day, you will have an unhealthy lifestyle," Savelberg says. "Although 30 minutes of exercise will help you to burn calories, the excessive sitting time will trigger negative health effects." He went on to say that high-intensity exercise will burn calories and help with weight loss, but after 30 minutes at the gym, you should not think that you are done for the day. "You should still not sit down for most of the time," he explains.
As for why merely standing has a positive health effect, Savelberg says it's all about the "use it or lose it" hypothesis. "Just rising from a chair might provide a kind of wake-up call for your body," he says. "It seems to be a kind of reminder to maintain all physiological systems intact."
This means that for a healthy lifestyle, it's not necessary to exercise daily, Savelberg says, as long as you're not sitting for long periods of time. He notes, however, that while reducing sitting time had positive effects on health risk factors, such as insulin and cholesterol levels, this study did not assess whether reducing sitting time across the population would have a measurable impact on the prevalence of diabetes or heart disease.
"Study: Longer, Low-Intensity Exercises May Be Healthier Than Short, Intense Workouts" originally appeared on Everyday Health.