Wondering which type of activity is best? There may be more benefit than anyone ever thought from short bursts of activity during the day if the findings of a new study in the American Journal of Health Promotion hold up. The research found that short bursts of activity, taking the stairs, vacuuming or raking leaves, walking the dog, during the day can be just as helpful as that trip to the gym for a more structured exercise regimen. For many of us, that’s good news.
The researchers examined a nationally representative sample of over 6,000 American adults and saw that an unstructured active lifestyle appeared just as effective as structured exercise in providing benefits to overall health, things like preventing high blood pressure, high cholesterol numbers and the cluster of risk factors known as metabolic syndrome that bring a higher risk of coronary artery disease, diabetes and stroke. In fact, the only area where the shorter bursts didn’t equal the benefits of sustained exercise was in body mass index.
As an example, those in the shorter exercise group who managed 30 minutes of activity in total per day had an 89% chance of NOT having metabolic syndrome. For the structured exercisers the risk was 87%.
What’s more, the team also found that a surprising 43% of adults who did short bursts of activity actually met the 30 minutes a day physical activity guidelines given by the federal government. Those one and two minutes of activity added up in terms of health. Study co-author Brad Cardinal who is a professor of exercise and sports science at Oregon State believes the findings of the work defy the laziness myth of American adults because it shows that lots of people achieved the recommended exercise guidelines. This is significantly more than the reported 10% of study subjects who said they exercised in a structured way.
The other author of the study, Paul Loprinzi who was a doctoral student at Oregon State University when he did the research, encourages us all to look for those everyday ways to be active… walk back and forth while on the phone, climb those stairs, walk anytime you can, use a push mower instead of a riding one, rake leaves. You might also try getting up (and not for a snack) during commercials and doing some sit-ups, push-ups or jumping jacks. At your child’s sporting events, use the half time break to walk about, stretch your legs and get your heart pumping.
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Everyday Activities As Good As The Gym Continued…
The findings of the research are important because they address one of the most often cited barriers to getting more active – not having the time – by suggesting that adding activity into your everyday routine can bring you benefits, though probably won’t help with weight. This idea is certainly a more natural, more affordable, more flexible way to exercise.
Making being physically active a way of life is likely a smart strategy in terms of ongoing health. Be aware of the things that might entice you to sit, or be less active and avoid them as much as possible. Rather than focusing on getting that 30 minutes in one sitting… just get yourself moving for a minute or two and you’ll see a benefit to your health.
To your good health,