Study: Long-Term Gains From Short-Term Exercise Programs

July 22, 2019

We know that exercise is an excellent way to stay healthy. We also know that regular movement, even in short spurts, can help physical and mental health. Now, a study shows that even a short-term exercise program can yield health benefits as much as four years later.

In this study, researchers from the United Kingdom looked at data from a control group and from nearly 1,300 participants 45 to 75 years old who completed a 12-week walking intervention program using pedometers. The researchers analyzed the health outcomes of both groups one year and four years after the program ended. 

In previous studies, participants increased their physical activity while taking part in other physical activity interventions. However, no research had been done to determine if short-term activity yielded long-term benefits.

This study found that even four years after the intervention, program participants were still walking an average of 30 minutes per week more than the control group. Although incidences of diabetes and depression diagnoses were low for both groups, the participants in the intervention group had significantly fewer fractures and cardiovascular events relative to the control group.


Key Takeaway

Companies that incorporate wellness programs may wonder about the lasting effects of the investment. This study confirms that even a three-month program can make significant differences in health years later. Although not part of the study, one could reasonably suggest that longer, more regular programs would yield even better results for participants.

Inactivity can cause many chronic health issues, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Helping employees be more active can counter problems that occur from a sedentary lifestyle.

A pedometer-based walking program, or one that employs fitness apps, can provide employees with the feedback, direction, and motivation to progress. That app, combined with a corporate wellness program that encourages consistent activity, can be the key to overall success.

The good news for organizations is that every bit of activity helps employees now and later. Researchers said, “Short-term primary care pedometer-based walking interventions can produce long-term health benefits and should be more widely used to help address the public health inactivity challenge.”

Topics: Facts and Research

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