Weekly challenge: Do five minutes of intense activity each day to prevent weight gain

Whether exercise contributes much to weight loss has long been a matter of debate, but new research shows every minute of intense activity counts when it comes to preventing weight gain through the years.

The study, published Sunday in the American Journal of Health Promotion, recruited more than 4500 volunteers to wear accelerometers—which measure pace and duration of physical activity—for three years and found that getting repeated bursts of just two or three minutes of intense activity can have as much impact on preventing weight gain over time as getting 10 minutes or more of steady exercise.

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In other words, taking the stairs instead of the elevator or jogging from a distant parking spot into the supermarket can help you avoid weight gain through the years—without forcing you to make time for a formal workout.

That’s not to say that regular exercise sessions aren’t beneficial, but we shouldn’t discount advice to get our bodies moving quickly whenever we can.

The University of Utah researchers calculated that each daily minute spent in a high-intensity movement was associated with nearly a one-half pound smaller weight gain over three years.

Those who worked a few minutes of strenuous activity into their day had a lower risk of developing obesity.

“What we learned is that for preventing weight gain, the intensity of the activity matters more than duration,” said study author Jessie Fan. “Knowing that even short bouts of brisk activity can add up to a positive effect is an encouraging message for promoting better health.”

Your challenge for this week is to find ways to get your heart beating significantly faster a few times each day.

Stumped for ideas? Try the seven-minute workout video posted above or these 25 tips from Prevention magazine. Here are some of my faves:

1. Do standing push-ups in your kitchen while you wait for a pot to boil. Stand an arm’s length from the kitchen counter, and push your arms against the counter. Push in and out 12 to 15 times.

2. Pot still not boiling? Do two minutes of jumping jacks.

3. If you’re heading out to get the newspaper in the morning, bypass it and do a two minute power walk up your block before heading back to get the paper.

4. Turn a playground jaunt with your kids into a workout by doing the monkey bars or running as they throw you a frisbee or pop-ups.

5. Instead of emailing your co-worker who’s three flights away, deliver the message in person. Telecommuting? Take a 5-minute dance break. Stream your favorite music video and dance away. These 40 tracks suggested by Spin magazine will really get you moving.