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29 June 2011

Fidgeting your way to fitness

Walking to the photocopier and fidgeting at your desk are contributing more to your cardiorespiratory fitness than you might think.

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Walking to the photocopier and fidgeting at your desk are contributing more to your cardiorespiratory fitness than you might think.

Researchers have found that both the duration and intensity of incidental physical activities (IPA) are associated with cardiorespiratory fitness. The intensity of the activity seems to be particularly important, with a cumulative 30-minute increase in moderate physical activity throughout the day offering significant benefits for fitness and long-term health.

"It's encouraging to know that if we just increase our incidental activity slightly - a little bit more work around the house, or walking down the hall to speak with a co-worker as opposed to sending an email - we can really benefit our health in the long-term," says Ashlee McGuire, the study's lead researcher and a graduate student in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies. "Best of all, these activities don't take up a lot of time, they're not difficult to do, and you don't have to go to a gym."

Activities of daily living

McGuire and fellow researcher Robert Ross, a professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, define IPA as non-purposeful physical activity accrued through activities of daily living, such as doing housework, climbing stairs or walking around the office.

Since a large proportion of the Canadian population doesn't participate in a more structured, higher intensity exercise regime, McGuire and Ross wanted to find out whether the time and intensity of incidental physical activity had any impact on cardiorespiratory fitness.

None of the study's participants met Canada's physical activity guidelines and were engaging solely in incidental physical activity. Activity levels were gauged using an accelerometer, which measures the duration and intensity of movement. Participants wore the accelerometer for a week and also took part in a test to measure their cardiorespiratory fitness.

These findings were published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

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