Any type of activity–from running to cycling to doing house work–is measured as the energy expenditure required for the activity, compared to the energy needed to sit quietly. Moderate activity exercises include walking, water aerobics, yoga, gardening, and even putting away groceries.

Vigorous activities, however, are those that burn energy at six times the rate of sitting quietly.

Vigorous activities include:

  • Jogging or running
  • Backpacking
  • Step aerobics
  • Singles tennis
  • Swimming laps 
  • Moving heavy furniture

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created a list with even more examples of vigorous and moderate activities.

Discussing the difference between moderate and vigorous activity is important, because there are benefits that are specific to these types of exercise. Medscape reports that those who perform more vigorous exercises have a slightly lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Vigorous activity, since it expends more calories, can also help people lose weight more quickly. However, vigorous activity is also more taxing on the system and can make people more susceptible to injury. With too high of an intensity, people may also drop out of an exercise program all together.

Almost any physical activity, whether vigorous or moderate, is good.

However, health professionals are increasingly concerned about the very low rates of physical activity most people in the U.S. are getting. A recent study from the University of South Carolina relied on accelerometry technology to measure participants’ activity, rather than the normal self-reported questionnaires. What they found was that obese individuals get less than one minute of vigorous activity per day.

Likewise, the CDC found that 80% of people in the U.S. do not get the recommended minimum amount of physical activity every week. Their recommendations are 2.5 hours of moderate activity each week or 1.25 hours of vigorous activity. Only 20.6% of people met these recommendations.

Remember, any type of activity is good. It’s best to find exercises that you enjoy and that you will keep up with.

What are your favorite activities? How could you get more activity–whether moderate or vigorous–into your day? 

Image by Lali Masriera via Flickr

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