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For some people, life seems just too hectic to meet the recommended 30 continuous minutes per day of aerobic exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control have changed the previous exercise guidelines to meet the demands of an increasingly busy society.

A more practical approach: 30 minutes of total moderate physical activity - continuous or intermittent - should be performed most days of the week. The effectiveness of these new guidelines was recently tested, with particular emphasis on cardiovascular fitness and weight loss.

The study, which appeared in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, compared the effects of variations of a 30-minute exercise program on aerobic fitness and weight loss in college women. Forty-eight overweight women were divided into four groups: no exercise; 30 minutes of continuous exercise per day; two 15-minutes sessions of exercise per day; and three 10-minute sessions per day. Measures of fitness, weight loss, skinfold thickness, and body circumference were taken initially and after three months of exercise training on a stationary bicycle.

All three exercise groups demonstrated significant fitness improvement, weight loss, and decreased body measurements at the end of the study. The results were similar between all three exercise groups. The nonexercise group did not show any significant changes.

Exercise may have similar effects on weight loss and aerobic fitness, whether performed in one long bout or several cumulative short sessions. If your schedule doesn’t allow for a long block of time to get in an effective workout, now you have an alternative to stay fit.

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Schmidt WD, Biwer CJ, Kalscheuer LK. Effects of long versus short bout exercise on fitness and weight loss in overweight females. Journal of the American College of Nutrition 2001:20(5), pp. 494-501.

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