Scientists from the University of Bath's Department of Health have found that gentler exercise is just as good as a tough workout in helping people to lose weight.
The research, published in the journal Physiological Reports, found that provided the number of calories burned in a day or week does not differ, the intensity of the exercise makes no difference to the amount of weight lost.
This means that people who may have gone for the seemingly easier option in gentler exercise but more frequently or for more time, will achieve the same results.
Thirty-eight sedentary and overweight men and post-menopausal women with an average age of 52 were asked to exercise five times a week and cut their calorie consumption for the study.
Participants blood insulin and biopsies of fat were measured before and after the study, and it was found that both groups had lost the same amount of weight and the same improvements in insulin sensitivity and metabolism were found in both groups.
The vast majority of positive changes were unaffected by the intensity of the exercise taken.
Professor Dylan Thompson said:
A critical feature of our experiment was that we carefully matched the groups, so all participants expanded the same calories during each exercise session and experienced the same calorie reduction by consuming less food.
If you want to increase the amount of exercise you do as a New Year’s resolution, then our study shows that benefits are similar whether you choose to exercise for longer at a lower intensity, or for less time but more vigorously.
Dr Jean-Philippe Wahlin, the study's lead author, said:
Three weeks of increased exercise combined with a reduction in dietary intake had a dramatic impact on the overall health of the participants and on key genes within their fat tissue. However, our data demonstrates that what really matters is how many calories were used up by exercising in total, not so much the intensity of the exercise sessions.
You can read a more in-depth article on the matter by Dr Wahlin for The Conversation.