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Moderation for Long-Term Exercise

You don't have to push yourself to the limit to get fit.
Why moderationis the name of
the game.

If you're beginning a new workout regimen, don't expect too much of
yourself--or too little. Results of a study by researchers at Duke
University Medical Center suggest that, left to their own devices, people
gravitate to a moderate exercise program that's neither too lax nor too
ambitious--the equivalent of briskly walking 11 miles each week. The
investigators surmise that smaller doses of high intensity exercise may
enable people to better stick to their exercise program.

Led by William Kraus, Ph.D., researchers studied 87
"couch-potatoes" who were randomly "prescribed" one of three 9-month
supervised exercise programs. A low exercise group worked out an average
of 187 minutes per week at about 50 percent of peak intensity; a moderate
group, 123 minutes at 65-80 percent intensity; and a high group, 180
minutes at 65-80 percent intensity.

After the supervised period, subjects were observed for an
additional six months during which they were free to work out or not. On
average, the high exercise group reduced both the time spent per week and
the intensity of their workouts. The low exercise group also decreased
the number of minutes per week they exercised, but 68 percent
significantly increased their workout intensity. The exercise patterns of
the moderate group proved to be the most sustainable.

"It appears these adults prefer to do fewer minutes at a higher
intensity versus more minutes at a lower intensity, regardless of what
they did in the supervised program," says Lori Aiken, who presented the
findings at the annual meeting of the American College of Sports
Medicine.

Keith W. Johnsgard, a sports psychologist and professor emeritus at
San Jose State University in California, confirms the benefits of
moderation: "There's a wealth of research indicating that moderate
exercise is the way to go. People are less likely to drop off, and they
achieve a lot of the same benefits--reduced anxiety, reduced depression
and weight loss."

Among those who did not continue to exercise after the 9-month
supervised program, the most frequently cited reasons were lack of time
and lack of motivation.