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You Can Exercise Less, According to Science
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You Can Exercise Less, According to Science

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A recent study out of Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), a Harvard-affiliated institution, has shown that your long sweat sessions may not be necessary. Short spurts of exercise are all you need to improve cardiometabolic, cardiovascular, and overall long-term health. 

Potential impact of this research could lead to an improved understanding of the ways that exercise can benefit those with conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, or stroke. Not to mention – it could also remove a lot of obstacles that prevent people from exercising. 

About the Study

The research study was published in the journal, Circulation. It demonstrated the effect just 12 minutes of acute cardiopulmonary exercise (aka intense cardio) had on over 80 percent of circulating metabolites that correlate with various markers of health. These particular metabolites control bodily functions such as inflammation, oxidative stress, insulin resistance and vascular reactivity.

Study researchers used data from the Framingham Heart Study, which is directed by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), to obtain their data. They asked 411 middle-aged men and women to perform 12 minutes of vigorous exercise. Before and after these sessions, the researchers measured levels of 588 circulating metabolites in each participant.

Overall, the team recorded encouraging changes in metabolites related to cardiometabolic disease. Glutamate dropped by 29 percent following the exercise session. Glutamate is associated with a decrease in longevity, along with heart disease and diabetes. Another metabolite, dimethylguanidino valeric acid (DMGV), went down by 18 percent. DMGV is related to increased risk of diabetes and liver disease.

In addition to exercise, other factors were shown to affect certain metabolic functions. Sex and body mass index seemed to play a role. Researchers believe obesity causes some resistance to the overall benefits of high intensity exercise.

The researchers linked different metabolites to particular physiological responses to exercise, leading researchers to believe that it may be possible to detect unique signatures in the bloodstream that determine a person’s overall physical fitness. This works much the same way that blood tests are able to determine kidney and liver function.

Key Takeaways

The Framingham Heart Study has a long history in its pursuit to identify the factors that contribute to cardiovascular disease. It has been conducted since 1948, encompassing three generations of participants. MGH researchers were able to take signatures obtained from their current study members and apply those to stored blood from earlier participants. This long-term picture of post-exercise metabolic signatures gave researchers unique insights into a person’s potential future health and lifespan.

In other words, the study has allowed researchers to get a clearer picture of the ways exercise affects the body at the molecular level. They can then use that information to see how exercise response patterns are connected to metabolic structure. It may be possible one day to identify people who have risk factors affected by exercise, such as high blood pressure, and help put them on a preventative path to wellness. The results of this study might allow future researchers to have a better understanding of how exercise can be used to improve general metabolic health. 

Sample Cardio Workouts

There are a number of ways you can get a quick cardio workout at home, on the road or wherever is convenient for you. As the MGH research study and others have shown, there are numerous benefits to even short exercise sessions. The key is to maintain your effort as consistently as possible throughout the workout and to choose activities you enjoy so that you will be more likely to complete them on a regular basis.

Jumping rope is an exercise that burns calories quickly, requires little equipment and can be done nearly anywhere. It may take some practice if you’re not used to using a jump rope, and some coordination is required. To fight boredom, you can alternate feet, jump on one foot or double turn the rope (double unders).

Consider jumping jacks or jogging in place if you prefer a quick cardio routine that requires no special equipment except perhaps for a pair of supportive shoes. Burpees are another good floor exercise for getting your heart rate up. Start out in a squatting position, jump to a plank position, then jump your feet back under your pelvis and finally hop back up to standing. Alternatives such as squat jumps and mountain climbers are also suitable.

You can alternate these cardio exercises. Perhaps combine them with strength routines including lunges, planks, push-ups or dips. Anything goes as long as it holds your interest and maintains an elevated heart rate. Strive to complete each short cardiovascular session three to five times per week for best results.

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