We all know that regular exercise has tremendous health benefits. But how much do you really need to do to reap the rewards? Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine have discovered that just one 20-minute session of moderate exercise may be all it takes.
To many dedicated exercise enthusiasts, 20 minutes might sound like more of a warm up than a work out but in fact in this study, 47 participants helped proved that 20 minutes of moderate exercise could be the magic number for boosting your immune system.
“Each time we exercise, we are truly doing something good for our body on many levels, including at the immune cell level,” said senior author Suzi Hong, PhD, in the Department of Psychiatry and the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “The anti-inflammatory benefits of exercise have been known to researchers, but finding out how that process happens is the key to safely maximizing those benefits.”
The study monitored the effects of a 20-minute session of moderate treadmill exercise with 47 participants who gave blood samples before exercising. After 20 minutes of treadmill walking, they provided another blood sample. The blood samples showed that the exercise caused a 5 percent decrease in the number of immune cells producing a cytokine, or protein, called TNF.
TNF is known to regulate local and systemic inflammation. In a fascinating chain reaction, short bouts of aerobic exercise inhibit TNF production via β2-adrenergic activation. The researchers conclude that “Decreased inflammatory responses during acute exercise may protect against chronic conditions with low-grade inflammation.”
In other words… You can reap huge benefits with Small Amounts of Moderate Exercise
These findings are great news for both people who love to exercise and those of you who hate exercise, too. If you currently engage in longer sessions of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) most days of the week ... keep doing what you’re doing! But, if you avoid exercise or are squeezed for time, the latest research can serve as a science-based motivational reminder that very small amounts of moderate intensity exercise reap huge benefits.
Moderate exercise provides an abundance of other health benefits, like controlling hypertension and diabetes, preventing Alzheimer’s, reducing anxiety and stress, and slowing the aging process. People who engage in moderate exercise regularly can increase their lifespan by up to 10 years.
So, What Counts as Moderate Exercise?
The Athlete’s Way outlines the “talk test’ method of gauging exertion levels, the moderate range of exertion being where you speak four- to six-word sentences.
The 5-Point Rating Scale of Perceived Exertion "Talk Test"
- 1. Very Easy: You could sing a song (40 to 50 percent maximum heart rate).
- 2. Easy: You could carry on a regular conversation (50 to 60 percent).
- 3. Moderate: You could speak four- to six-word sentences (60 to 80 percent).
- 4. Hard: You could express short two- or three-word thoughts (80 to 85 percent)
- 5. Very Hard: You could grunt and use sign language (85 to 100 percent)
What Is The Best 20-Minute Workout?
What is the best way to workout for 20 minutes? The choice really is yours. From moderately paced walk outside, from hitting the machines at the gym, to riding a bike, there are plenty of options. And if you get bored of that and are looking for a full body workout, check out these 20-minute workout ideas: