Effects of moderate and vigorous physical activity on fitness and body composition

J Behav Med. 2016 Aug;39(4):624-32. doi: 10.1007/s10865-016-9740-z. Epub 2016 Apr 7.


Current physical activity (PA) guidelines indicate that moderate-intensity (MPA) and vigorous intensity (VPA) PA provide similar benefits when total volume is equal. The present study examined the associations of MPA and VPA with body composition and cardiorespiratory fitness in free-living young adults. A total of 197 young adults (52.8 % male) were followed over a period of 15 months. Body composition was assessed via dual X-ray absorptiometry and time spent in various PA intensities was determined with a multi-sensor device every 3 months. Cardiorespiratory fitness was assessed with a graded exercise test at baseline and 15-months follow-up. Change in VPA was positively associated with cardiorespiratory fitness while MPA had beneficial associations with percent body fat. In overweight/obese participants the association with VO2peak was similar for MVPA bouts and VPA. Even though MPA and VPA have positive associations with overall health, their associations on key health parameters differ.

Keywords: Body weight; Exercise; Percent body fat; Physical activity intensity; Young adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Body Composition / physiology*
  • Body Mass Index*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Overweight / physiopathology
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Young Adult