If you've ever wondered whether you can lose weight just as well with moderate exercise as with vigorous exercise, here's your answer: Yes -- provided you're at it long enough to burn calories and you're also cutting back on the fork action.
"As long as the volume of exercise you do is high enough, the intensity doesn't matter when it comes to weight loss," says John M. Jakicic, an assistant professor of exercise physiology at the University of Pittsburgh. "It's all about the calories. I don't care how hard you're doing it as long as you're doing it enough."
But he adds, "the advantage to more vigorous exercise is you could actually exercise a little shorter time."
Although no one has scientifically established the optimal amount of daily exercise to maintain long-term weight loss, Jakicic says a study he conducted in 2000 and 2001, published in the current Journal of the American Medical Assn., comes closer to pinpointing that magic number.
Along with dieting, 30 to 40 minutes of exercise five days a week can take off 9% of weight, about 20 pounds for most people, and maintain the loss for a year, he says.
Jakicic, who directs the university's Physical Activity and Weight Management Research Center, led a study in which 201 overweight, sedentary women lost weight and kept it off for a year. The women, whose average age was 37, were told to limit themselves to 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day and hold the fat at 20% to 30% of total calories.
All were advised to walk five days a week and were provided with a basic treadmill. Regardless of whether they exercised at moderate or high intensity, all lost weight and kept it off.