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Vigorous Physical Activity Is Associated with Additional Health Benefits

Research is well documented on the benefits of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activities – meaning engaging in exercise that causes your breathing to be at or below a breathless state.

Former Oregon track coach and co-founder of Nike – Bill Bowerman – referred to moderate physical activity (MPA), as being below a breathless state, in which you are able to carry on an activity, like running, while simultaneously talking out loud – “the Talk Test.”

Bowerman’s innovative approach, defining the anaerobic or ventilatory threshold, was validated years later.
The 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans suggests that adults should accumulate at least 150 to 300 minutes per week of (MPA), 75 to 150 minutes per week of vigorous intensity physical activity (VPA), or an equivalent combination of physical activity of both intensities.

The VPA, as it pertains to best use of time – as intensity goes up, the duration comes down – has proven quite effective in sports to simulate the work-to-rest ratios that the game imparts to the competitor.

Yet, according JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Internal Medicine research – Association of Physical Activity Intensity with Mortality, which appeared online in November of 2020, “it remains uncertain whether, for the same amount of total MVPA, VPA may actually offer additional health benefits compared with MPA.”
Researchers from China, Chile, Spain, and Brazil used 403,681 adults from the National Health Interview Survey from 1997 to 2013, who provided data on self-reported physical activity – linked to the National Death Index records through December 31, 2015.

Statistical analysis was performed from May 15, 2018, to August 15, 2020. Participants were excluded, if they lacked physical activity data, had disabilities that might affect daily activity, or incapable of performing moderate or vigorous physical activity.

It was speculated by the researchers that, “for the same amount of total physical activity, a higher proportion of VPA is associated with lower mortality.”

When the data was compiled and analyzed, the researchers determined that, “for the same amount of total physical activity, participants with a greater proportion of VPA to MPA had a lower all-cause mortality.”
“For instance,” noted the investigators, “among participants doing any MVPA, more than 50 to 75% of VPA to total physical activity was associated with 17% lower all-cause mortality, even after adjusting for total amount of MVPA.”

However, it was also noted that, “we did not find a consistent inverse association of proportion of VPA with CVD (cardiovascular disease) and cancer mortality.”

The bottom line: Participants performing 150 to 299 minutes per week of MPA and those individuals reporting 150 minutes per week or more of VPA had the lowest all-cause mortality risk.

From a heart rate intensity perspective, it’s been demonstrated that exercising in the range of 72 to 87% of maximum heart rate can improve cardiorespiratory fitness. Maximum heart rate is found by subtracting your age from 220. Then, take 72 and 87% of that number to have a projected heart rate training zone.

The caveat is that it’s best to speak with your personal physician, as to the best duration, mode, and intensity of exercise – based on your personal health profile.