This site is intended for health professionals only

Belief in moderate activity "can harm health"

People may be putting their health at risk by thinking moderate activity is more beneficial than vigorous exercise, new research claims.

The majority of studies show that regular participation in activities such as jogging and competitive sports have the greatest benefit to health.

But around 56% of men and 71% of women now believe activities such as walking are the best for them, the study published in Preventive Medicine by Exeter and Brunel universities found.

Adults used to be told to take 20-60 minutes of vigorous exercise three or more times a week.

But since 1995, the Department of Health (DH) has instead promoted 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week.

The researchers believe this shift is threatening health and are calling for new evidence-based guidelines.

Exeter University exercise physiologist Dr Gary O'Donovan said: "Time and time again, the largest and most robust studies have shown that vigorously active individuals live longer and enjoy a better quality of life than moderately active individuals and couch potatoes.

"It is extremely worrying that British adults now believe that a brief stroll and a bit of gardening is enough to make them fit and healthy.

"The challenge now is to amend Britain's physical activity guidelines so that they emphasise the role vigorous activity plays in fighting obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease."

Copyright © PA Business 2007

Preventive Medicine

Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

"Will the government now fund all local authority sports centres so people can afford to take excerise?" - Pat Martin, Blackpool

"Surely it is better to do something that fits into your personal lifestyle and that you enjoy and so more likely to stick to than all these great plans of vigourous exercise. Also the theory that 30min 5 times a week isn't enough might put some people off doing anything at all. Something is better than nothing" - Name and address supplied

"I would have thought that any exercise is better than none. You may well put people off doing anything if you say it has to be vigorous. Vigorous to me sounds hard work and I haven't the time nor motivation to do it. However, I do walk whenever I can, use stairs, swim, and do the gardening - perhaps I need not bother? - Name and address supplied

"I have devised a programme for myself which consists of 30 minutes jazz stretch exercise, a three-mile powerwalk around Victoria Park and 2.5-hour T'ai Chi Chuan class everyday, six days a week. I also cycle as my mode of transport. As you can see, my regime is a combination of vigorious and moderate exercise. I think there  has to be an individual approach to a person's needs. I have been following this type of programme since the birth of my second child, who was born in 1984 and is now 23 years old. By the way I am 51 years old" - Gillian Samuel, Bethnal Green,  London