Short stretches of physical activity - such as taking the
stairs or raking leaves - throughout the day can be just as beneficial as a
trip to the gym, according to a new study.
Researchers looked at more than 6 000 American adults and
found that this "active lifestyle approach" appeared to be as
effective as structured exercise in providing health benefits such as
preventing high blood pressure, high cholesterol and the group of risk factors
known as metabolic syndrome that increases the risk for coronary artery
disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
"Our results suggest that engaging in an active
lifestyle approach, compared to a structured exercise approach, may be just as
beneficial in improving various health outcomes," study author Paul
Loprinzi said. "We encourage
people to seek out opportunities to be active when the choice is available.
Opt to walk, move
while on the phone
For example, rather than sitting while talking on the phone,
use this opportunity to get in some activity by pacing around while
Loprinzi was a doctoral student at Oregon State University
when he conducted the study. He is now an assistant professor of exercise
science at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky.
The researchers also found that 43% of adults who did short
bouts of exercise met the federal physical activity guidelines of 30 minutes a
day, compared with less than 10% of those who did longer exercise sessions.
"You hear that less than 10% of Americans exercise and
it gives the perception that people are lazy," study co-author Brad
Cardinal, a professor of exercise and sports science at Oregon State, said in
the news release. "Our research shows that more than 40% of adults
achieved the exercise guidelines, by making movement a way of life."
The study was published in the January/February issue of the
American Journal of Health Promotion.
People are too busy to
Many people say they don't get enough exercise due to lack
of time. These findings are promising in that they show that simply
incorporating movement into everyday activities can provide health benefits,
"This is a more natural way to exercise - just to walk
more and move around a bit more," he noted. "We are designed by
nature as beings who are supposed to move. People get it in their minds: 'If I
don't get that 30 minutes, I might as well not exercise at all.' Our results
really challenge that perception and give people meaningful, realistic options
for meeting the physical activity guidelines."
The US National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers a
guide to physical activity.