Moderate Exercise Encourages Healthier Lifestyle

3 Minute Read

An HFE tutor with a group of smiling fitness students
An HFE tutor with a group of smiling fitness students

New research from the University of Copenhagen has found that moderate exercising is more motivating than hard training. The findings have just been published in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health. Researchers at the University of Copenhagen are developing new, interdisciplinary methods for preventing and treating the widespread problem of obesity.

“Obesity is a complex social problem requiring a multidisciplinary approach. In a new scientific article, we combined data from biomedical studies of the subjects’ bodies with ethnological data on their experiences during the 12-week trial period. This enabled us to explain the background for the surprising fact that 30 minutes of daily exercise is just as beneficial as a full hour of hard fitness training. The ‘lightweight’ group of exercisers appeared to have more energy and be more motivated in relation to pursuing a healthy lifestyle,” says Professor Bente Stallknecht from the department of biomedical sciences at the University of Copenhagen.

The research team monitored 61 healthy, sedentary, moderately overweight young men over a 12-week period to examine the effects of two different doses of daily endurance exercise – moderate and high dose – on health behaviour and exercise compliance. The group of young men were divided into moderate exercise and high dose exercise groups. Those that exercised for 30 minutes each day, lost on average 3.6kg during the three months, while weight loss was just 2.7kg for those exercising for a full hour. A number of participants were also interviewed using pre-determined, qualitative questions based on the team’s ethnological expertise. This included questions on the participant’s usual physical activity levels, entrenched lifestyle habits and general health behaviour. The qualitative interviews also helped to identify the cultural barriers in relation to training and changes in longstanding habits.

Obesity is a complex social problem requiring a multidisciplinary approach

“The qualitative data offers a possible explanation for the surprising biological data,” says Astrid Jespersen, ethnologist and associate professor at the university’s faculty of humanities. “The subjects in the test group that exercised the least were talking about their increased energy levels and a higher motivation for exercising and pursuing a healthy everyday life. They take the stairs, take the dog for an extra walk or cycle to work. In contrast, the men who exercised for one hour a day felt exhausted after training and were demotivated and less open to making a healthy change. We are thus seeing that a moderate amount of exercise does significantly impact on the subjects’ daily practices.”

Findings from the study also showed that the moderate exercise group were untroubled by the exercise load and had a positive attitude towards exercise. In comparison, the high dose group expressed fatigue, less positivity and perceived their daily hour of exercise as time-consuming. The research team’s scientific paper also says: “the moderate group described themselves as more energetic and thereby may have increased physical activity levels in areas of their everyday lives that were not related to the intervention.”

The study is titled: compliance with physical exercise: using a multidisciplinary approach within a dose-dependent exercise study of moderately overweight men.


Lee Cain

Lee Cain

Writer, Tutor and Experienced Fitness Professional

Lee has over 20 years’ experience in the health and fitness industry and has performed multiple roles, including physical training instructor, strength and conditioning coach, lecturer, writer, tutor, assessor and verifier for vocational qualifications. He has a passion for all things exercise, with his key specialisms being strength and performance-based training.

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