Bursts of Strenuous Activity Beat Sustained Exercise

High-intensity exercise is better at preventing conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, than typical sustained activities like jogging or biking.

High-intensity, anaerobic exercise can be more effective at building strength and flexibility. New research also indicates it's better at preventing conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, than typical sustained activities like jogging or biking.


More demanding exercise that pushes the body to its exercise limits for shorter periods of time was once thought to be relevant only to professional athletes looking for competitive advantages at the highest levels of sport. But scientists now believe that short bursts of activity (typically thirty to sixty seconds) followed by a recovery period are more effective than continuous moderate activity at improving cardiovascular, respiratory, metabolic, and mechanical functions.

"A 12-week controlled study in Denmark of high-intensity interval walking for patients with Type 2 diabetes showed it helped control blood glucose levels better than continuous moderate exercise, even though the same number of calories was expended by both groups. Interval training also was more effective at enhancing the patients’ physical fitness and reducing body fat relative to lean muscle tissue."

Big Think expert Dr. Joseph Zuckerman argues that a very repetitive exercise regime, i.e., limiting your activity to only one form of exercise, is really only useful for highly competitive athletes. If you're looking for health and fitness, cross-training is essential, which includes combining sustained exercise with high-intensity activities:

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