European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 114, Issue 8, pp 1563–1571 | Cite as

Exercise volume and intensity: a dose–response relationship with health benefits

  • Heather J. A. Foulds
  • Shannon S. D. Bredin
  • Sarah A. Charlesworth
  • Adam C. Ivey
  • Darren E. R. WarburtonEmail author
Original Article



The health benefits of exercise are well established. However, the relationship between exercise volume and intensity and health benefits remains unclear, particularly the benefits of low-volume and intensity exercise.


The primary purpose of this investigation was, therefore, to examine the dose–response relationship between exercise volume and intensity with derived health benefits including volumes and intensity of activity well below international recommendations.


Generally healthy, active participants (n = 72; age = 44 ± 13 years) were assigned randomly to control (n = 10) or one of five 13-week exercise programs: (1) 10-min brisk walking 1×/week (n = 10), (2) 10-min brisk walking 3×/week (n = 10), (3) 30-min brisk walking 3×/week (n = 18), (4) 60-min brisk walking 3×/week (n = 10), and (5) 30-min running 3×/week (n = 14), in addition to their regular physical activity. Health measures evaluated pre- and post-training including blood pressure, body composition, fasting lipids and glucose, and maximal aerobic power (VO2max).


Health improvements were observed among programs at least 30 min in duration, including body composition and VO2max: 30-min walking 28.8–34.5 mL kg−1 min−1, 60-min walking 25.1–28.9 mL kg−1 min−1, and 30-min running 32.4–36.4 mL kg−1 min−1. The greater intensity running program also demonstrated improvements in triglycerides.


In healthy active individuals, a physical activity program of at least 30 min in duration for three sessions/per week is associated with consistent improvements in health status.


Aerobic exercise Body composition Physical activity Lipid metabolism Exercise intensity 



Glycosylated hemoglobin


Body mass index


Cardiovascular disease


High-Density Lipoprotein


Low-density lipoprotein


Physical activity readiness questionnaire for everyone


Standard deviation


Total cholesterol


Maximal aerobic power



This research was supported by the Physical Activity Support Line, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the BC Knowledge Development Fund, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR), and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). Dr. Warburton was supported by a CIHR New Investigator Award, and a MSFHR Clinical Scholar Award. Dr. Warburton was the recipient of the 2012 CIHR/Canadian Medical Association Journal Top Achievement in Health Research Award. Heather Foulds was supported by grants from the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, Indspire, the Foundation for the Advancement of Aboriginal Youth, the University of British Columbia and NSERC.

Conflict of interest

We have no conflict of interest to declare.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heather J. A. Foulds
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Shannon S. D. Bredin
    • 3
    • 4
  • Sarah A. Charlesworth
    • 1
    • 3
  • Adam C. Ivey
    • 1
    • 3
  • Darren E. R. Warburton
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 5
    Email author
  1. 1.Cardiovascular Physiology and Rehabilitation LaboratoryUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Experimental Medicine Program, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  3. 3.Physical Activity Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention UnitVancouverCanada
  4. 4.Cognitive and Functional Learning LaboratoryUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  5. 5.Osborne Unit IIVancouverCanada

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