Our home city of Boulder often ranks near the top of fittest cities in the country due to its’ low obesity rate and higher percentage of citizens who meet or exceed national exercise guidelines. The CDC recommends each American participates in either 150 minutes or 75 minutes of moderate (ex. walking 3-4 miles/hour) or vigorous (walking 4.5 miles/hour or hiking) exercise, respectively. When plotted against disease risk there is a sharp reduction in disease risk, including heart disease and cancer, as well as, early death risk when these levels are reached each week. Recently, authors have begun to study those individuals who routinely exceed these weekly minimums and if these extra minutes of activity lead to greater reductions in risk of disease or early mortality.
A recent cohort study was published in the internal medicine publication of the Journal of the American Medical Association which examined the association between exercise intensity and disease risk (Wang et al. 2020). Authors interviewed over 400K adults on their self reported physical activity and rates of disease over a 6 year period. Information was collected on the total amount of physical activity each week, as well as, the percentage of the activity which counted as vigorous in nature. Authors reported a greater reduction in risk of disease and death with higher percentages of vigorous exercise each week. They concluded the majority of the health benefits of exercise can be achieved with moderate exercise, but greater intensities may be associated with greater health benefits.
Vigorous exercise is not appropriate for all individuals and participants should check with their primary care physician before beginning a vigorous exercise program.