We all know how to lose weight – create a calorie deficit and exercise more. This means eating less, moving more, and choosing smaller portions and foods that are lower in calories. Simple right? Maybe it’s simpler than you think.

A group of researchers recently designed a study to determine whether breaking exercise up through the day (specifically three 10-minute sessions) would be as effective for health as longer bouts of exercise (thirty minute session).  Subjects, aged 20-36, were generally healthy except for prehypertension symptoms (early signs of high blood pressure, or hypertension – blood pressure readings approaching 140/90 and/or blood pressure spikes through the day).

Participants in the study were broken into three groups: 1) Aerobic exercise for 10 minutes, 3 sessions (what the researchers called “fractionized exercise”); 2) Aerobic exercise for one 30-minute session; 3) Control group – no exercise.  The exercise groups walked on a motor-driven treadmill at 75% their maximum heart rate, and each participant also wore a 24-hour blood pressure monitor. Results showed that both exercise groups had significantly lower systolic blood pressure (top number) than the control group during the daytime and evening, but the group that exercised in three 10-minute bouts also experienced lower blood pressure during the night.

While the study was very small (only 11 participants) the results are worth noting, not only in terms of the potential health benefit, but also the potential lifestyle benefit. Many people want to get healthier but simply do not enjoy exercise. They may decide to begin a program and go all out for an hour or more a day, only to get burned out and quit in a few months or less. If you can’t sustain regular exercise and healthy eating habits, there can be no long-term benefit, so you want to choose options that are a good fit for you.

It’s Simple: Balance movement and eating.

  1. Moving your body more is key for weight control, but you don’t want to fall into an excessive or compulsive exercise trap. As this study showed, it doesn’t have to be intense to benefit health. It does have to happen though. So try it! Take three 10-minute walks every day this week and see how it goes! If you can only fit in one or two, just do what you can.
  2. You should be enjoying your food. It’s not healthy to overeat excessively, but it’s also not healthy to deprive yourself of favorite foods. Instead of focusing on what to “cut out”, focus on what to “put in” to your diet – fruits, vegetables and grains that are loaded with fiber and important nutrients. Be careful not to fall into the “health halo” trap either – eating too much of a healthy food. Strive to reduce all portions.
  3. Include a variety of foods (the good stuff, with occasional junk or sweets) to allow you to maintain health. Portions and calories must match your body’s metabolism (based on your age and activity level).