• Many people wonder whether occasional intense workouts are better for your health than daily low-level activity.
  • New research from the American Heart Association suggests that it doesn’t matter as long as your workouts fall into one category: aerobic exercise.
  • That means that whether you’re signed up for a twice-weekly spinning class or just move around a lot throughout the day, your body and brain will reap the benefits.

To walk, or to run? That is often the question.

In other words, if you’re looking to improve your health, is it better to commit to an occasional all-out sweat fest, or incorporate more walking and moving into your day?

A new study suggests there’s an answer to this years-old conundrum: It doesn’t matter.

For better health and a reduced risk of death from any cause, any kind of movement is better than little or none. That means that any effort that gets you moving and breathing — whether it’s a twice-weekly heart-pounding kickboxing class or a 30-minute walk to work — has measurable benefits for your brain and body.

The research, published Friday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, used data on physical activity and death rates from national surveys of more than 4,800 adults.

The authors sorted activity into two categories: total minutes of activity per day, and total minutes of “bouted” — intense or concentrated — activity per day.

To count as a bout, an exercise spell had to last at least five minutes, but one- to two-minute breaks in between were allowed. Examples included workouts like cycling classes, interval training, and marathon training.

The researchers then looked for links among subjects’ activity levels, types of activity, and chances of dying at their age from any cause.

You may assume that people with more bouted activity fared better than people who just walked or moved around a lot. But the study found that neither type of activity had a significant edge over the other.

Overall, participants who clocked roughly 30 minutes a day of moderate or vigorous exercise were significantly less likely to die from any cause than people who got none. Those who accumulated an hour or more of movement daily fared even better.

“The key message based on the results presented is that total physical activity (i.e., of any bout duration) provides important health benefits,” the authors wrote.

Why cardio exercise is so good for the brain and body

An elderly man swimsAl Bello/Getty Images

The most recent study didn’t examine in detail participants’ types of activity, but plenty of other research has extolled the benefits of cardio or aerobic workouts, defined as any movement that raises your heart rate and gets you moving and sweating for a sustained period.

Unlike weight or strength training, which involves working specific muscle groups, cardio raises your heart rate, thereby improving heart and lung health.

Aerobic exercise has also been tied to a wide range of benefits for the brain, including lifts in mood, improvements in the symptoms of depression, and even potential protection against some forms of age-related cognitive decline.

Cardio workouts have “a unique capacity to exhilarate and relax, to provide stimulation and calm, to counter depression and dissipate stress,” an article in a Harvard health blog says.

The reason they lift our spirits seems related to their ability to reduce levels of natural stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, according to a study in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science.

Activities like running and swimming also increase overall blood flow and provide our minds fresh energy and oxygen — another factor that could help us feel better.

So whether you’re looking for benefits related to mood, memory, or overall health, the take-home message is clear: The more you move, the healthier you’re likely to be.

Read it on businessinsider.com