Separate Effects of Intensity and Amount of Exercise on Interindividual Cardiorespiratory Fitness Response

Mayo Clin Proc. 2015 Nov;90(11):1506-14. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2015.07.024. Epub 2015 Oct 9.


Objective: To determine the separate effects of exercise intensity and amount on interindividual cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) response.

Participants and methods: Participants were 121 (75 females, 62%) sedentary, middle-aged (mean [SD] age, 53.2 [7.5] years), abdominally obese adults who completed at least 90% of 5 weekly exercise sessions prescribed over a 24-week intervention. Participants were randomly assigned to (1) low-amount, low-intensity exercise (LALI) (180 and 300 kcal per session for women and men, respectively, at 50% of CRF [VO 2peak]; n=39), (2) high-amount, low-intensity exercise (HALI) (360 and 600 kcal per session for women and men, respectively, at 50% of CRF; n=51), or high-amount, high-intensity exercise (HAHI) (360 and 600 kcal per session for women and men, respectively, at 75% of CRF; n=31). Cardiorespiratory fitness was measured using a treadmill test at 4, 8, 16, and 24 weeks. The study duration was September 1, 2009, through May 31, 2013.

Results: Cardiorespiratory fitness increased within all 3 groups at 24 weeks (P<.001). At 24 weeks, 38.5% (15 of 39), 17.6% (9 of 51), and 0% (0 of 31) of the participants within the LALI, HALI, and HAHI groups, respectively, were CRF nonresponders. At a fixed exercise intensity, increasing exercise amount reduced the rate of nonresponse by 50% (P=.02). At a fixed amount of exercise, increasing the exercise intensity eliminated nonresponse (P=.001). Exposure to exercise decreased the number of CRF nonresponders between 4 and 8 weeks for LALI and by 16 weeks for HALI but plateaued thereafter. For HAHI, the number of CRF nonresponders decreased continually over the 24 weeks.

Conclusion: For a fixed amount of exercise, increasing exercise intensity consistent with consensus recommendations eliminated CRF nonresponse. Low-intensity exercise may not be sufficient to improve CRF for a substantial proportion of sedentary obese adults.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Exercise Test / methods
  • Exercise Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monitoring, Physiologic / methods
  • Obesity, Abdominal* / physiopathology
  • Obesity, Abdominal* / psychology
  • Obesity, Abdominal* / therapy
  • Physical Exertion
  • Physical Fitness*
  • Sedentary Behavior
  • Treatment Outcome