"Misleading" government guidelines have led to many Britons wrongly believing that moderate exercise is as beneficial as a vigorous workout, a study alleges.
In a survey of nearly 1,200 people, around half of men and three quarters of women thought moderate exercise conferred the greatest health benefits. Guidelines urge 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day five days per week.
But the authors of the study, published in Preventive Medicine, said vigorous exercise was best for averting disease.
The NHS guidelines say "taking a brisk walk, spending some time doing the gardening or doing a few laps of the local swimming pool on the way home from work" can all improve health.
But the researchers from Exeter and Brunel Universities said these activities were unlikely to do much for them.
"It's extremely worrying that British adults now believe that a brief stroll and a bit of gardening is enough to make them fit and healthy," said Dr Gary O'Donovan, lead author.
"Brisk walking offers some health benefits, but jogging, running and other vigorous activities offer maximal protection from disease."
Other specialists said the survey results were not surprising, and that few people in any event met the guidelines for moderate exercise.
But Paul Gately, professor of exercise and obesity at Leeds Metropolitan, said it was very difficult to formulate a "one size fits all" policy to exercise, as moderate exercise for one would be intense for another.
Source - BBC