Snacking (or Feasting) on Exercise

Studies tout short exercise sessions, but also endurance training at any age

We're not talking about this kind of exercise snacking.     Photo: Razvan/Getty Images

Two new studies on exercise have very different messages on how long you should work out at a time, but both may be good news for anyone looking to optimize their sweat session.

A study published in Diabetologia found that exercising in shorter and more intense bouts throughout the day, as opposed to all at once, was just as effective and more efficient for a small group of testers. The testers exercised right before each meal, which seemed to be a key to the method's success.

It should be noted that these individuals had insulin resistance, and the researchers were trying to determine if this method would help control their blood sugar levels—which it did, for at least 24 hours at a time. But it raises interesting questions about when and what kind of exercise is most effective.

On the other side of the coin, a study from the European Society of Cardiology encourages endurance training, specifically in men 40 and older. In a study of healthy men between 55 and 70 years old, researchers found that the heart-related benefits associated with long-distance running or cycling were the same regardless of when the men took up training.

Co-author David Matelot pointed out that many other benefits of endurance training, such as bone density and muscle mass, would be greater for those who start earlier. But at least for the 40 men in this study, endurance training is just as good for an over-40 ticker as it is for an under-30 ticker. Maybe that's why professional triathletes keep raising the bar when it comes to the question of how old is too old.

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