There’s no doubt that high intensity exercise has benefits, but when it comes to weight loss and cardiovascular health, not everyone is comfortable with working up a drenching sweat. Some people like to take it slower, but still want the benefits that exercise has to offer. Is that possible? According to a new study, low intensity exercise has benefits too – and offers an alternative for those who aren’t ready for a boot camp workout.
Low Intensity Exercise: Does It Have Benefits?
A three month Tai Chi based exercise study was carried out at the University of Queensland in Australia. Participants participated in a program consisting of gentle stretching and low intensity exercises for ninety days. During this time, they followed a regular diet without calorie restriction and did no high intensity exercise.
Was It Beneficial?
The results were overwhelmingly positive. Not only did the participants lose weight, but they experienced reductions in blood pressure, blood sugar levels, and insulin resistance. The changes weren’t just physical either. They experienced lower levels of depression and most reported experiencing better sleep, more energy, a greater ability to deal with stress.
Low Intensity vs. High Intensity Exercise
High intensity exercise has recently been in the spotlight recently because it burns more calories and has significant cardiovascular benefits. This type of intense exercise which takes the heart rate up to a high level for short periods of time is believed to be superior for burning body fat, toning the heart, and increasing insulin sensitivity. This study shows that low intensity exercise consisting of gentle stretching and other less intense moves can also promote weight loss and lead to an overall improvement in health.
Low intensity exercise is more “doable” for most people – although more intense exercise may give quicker results. Gentle stretching and Tai Chi moves doesn’t elevate the heart rate as much, but these moves are excellent for stress relief and relaxation which helps to lower blood pressure. According to this study, it also has benefits for weight loss, overall mood – and for controlling blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
The Bottom Line?
Does this mean you should punt your high intensity workout and head for a Tai Chi or yoga class? If you’re in good shape and are accustomed to a more strenuous workout low intensity exercise may not get you into better shape, but it could offer a nice break from a high intensity routine once in a while. Low intensity exercise is perfect for people who are just starting out or for people who have physical disabilities that limit their ability to do strenuous exercise. The good news? Even low intensity workouts have benefits – so get moving!
Contributing Arthur: Kristie Leong,M.D