Very short intermittent vs continuous bouts of activity in sedentary adults

Prev Med. 2006 Oct;43(4):332-6. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2006.06.002. Epub 2006 Jul 27.


Objective: Whether accumulating short intermittent bouts of light-to-moderate physical activity (LMPA) can elicit significant improvements in the fitness of sedentary adults, compared to one longer continuous bout.

Methods: Fifty sedentary 35- to 60-year-old adults in Hong Kong were randomly appointed to one of two gender-balanced intervention programs: Exercise Prescription Model (EPM) of 30-minute continuous activity, 3-4 days per week, or a Lifestyle group (LIFE) of 6-minute activity, 5 times per day, 4-5 days per week. Aerobic fitness (VO(2)max), mass, body composition, blood pressure, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index (BMI) were assessed at baseline (December 1995) and after 8 weeks.

Results: Nearly half of bouts by the LIFE group were < or =6 min, while 85% of the EPM bouts were > or =30 min, with no differences in additional energy expenditure between groups (EPM: 163.0+/-89.6 MET h vs LIFE: 148.2+/-71.6 MET h). Both groups significantly improved their VO(2)max, 7.4% (ES=0.36) and 5.3% (ES=0.24) for the EPM and Lifestyle groups respectively (F((1,43))=34.0, p<0.0001).

Conclusions: Accumulating multiple short bouts of LMPA, of which approximately 50% were < or =6 min, can provide significant improvements in the fitness of sedentary adults that is not dissimilar as one continuous bout of similar total duration.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / physiology
  • Adult
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Hong Kong
  • Humans
  • Life Style*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Physical Fitness
  • Self Efficacy
  • Time Factors