Is Endurance Exercise Really Good For You?

Is long, low intensity exercise better than short, intense workouts? 

Ben Greenfield
2-minute read

Is Endurance Exercise Really Good For You?

 by Ben Greenfield

Science Daily recently published an article entitled “Long, low intensity exercise may have more health benefits relative to short, intense workouts.” This seems to stand in stark contrast with my previous articles in which I’ve warned against the potential heart and hormone damaging downsides of “chronic cardio.”

In the study, one group sat for 14 hours each day and did not do any exercise at all; a second group sat for 13 hours each day and then exercised hard for 1 hour; and a third group alternated 6 hours of sitting with 4 hours of walking and 2 hours of standing. The final group had better insulin sensitivity and blood lipid levels, both of which can help identify metabolic conditions like diabetes and obesity.

But does this mean endurance exercise is good for you?  Not necessarily.

Four hours of walking (at a very slow pace) and 2 hours of standing should be our basic levels of physical activity during the day (and one reason I highly recommend standing workstations), but still this is nowhere near as strenuous as “pounding the pavement” in marathon training for 2-3 hour intense run bouts, or pedaling a bicycle for 2-3 hours.

Ultimately, the best exercise scenario is light levels of physical activity during the day, such as standing at work and taking the stairs instead of the elevator, combined with occasional bouts of heavy lifting, or sprinting, and very few highly “depleting” workout sessions—and not sitting in a chair all day and then working out extremely hard for an hour.

If you have questions about whether endurance exercise is good for you, then leave them on the Facebook.com/GetFitGuy page!

Running woman from Shutterstock

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.