20 minutes of vigorous exercise daily works wonders for teens

Exercising vigorously for 20 minutes a day may be the best way for teens to develop and maintain cardiorespiratory fitness, suggests a study published in the journal Pediatrics.

Cardiorespiratory fitness refers to the ability of the heart and lungs to deliver oxygen to muscles and body organs during physical exertion. Good cardiorespiratory fitness has been shown to reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, poor mental health and more.

Study participants included 339 teenagers, ages 13 and 14, who participated in running-focused school exercise programs for two years, with wrist-worn trackers calculating the intensity of their workouts.

Researchers found that teenagers maximized their cardiorespiratory fitness after 20 minutes of vigorous running. Exercising longer did not improve their physical condition. Current guidelines require young people to get at least 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity to maximize fitness, but health and fitness experts say many teens find the daily commitment difficult to maintain .

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only a quarter of young people are physically active for one hour a day. The researchers say their results show that when performing vigorous rather than moderate exercise (running, for example, instead of brisk walking), longer periods of physical activity are not needed to improve cardiorespiratory fitness. They note, however, that only cardiorespiratory fitness was assessed and that other aspects of adolescent health may benefit from physical activity at a lower intensity.

This article is part of the Post’s “Big Number” series, which briefly examines the statistical side of health problems. Additional information and relevant research is available via the hyperlinks.

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