For most Americans, working out just for the sake of working out is not an appealing activity. We all know that it’s important to exercise regularly if we want to live a long and healthy life; however, many are not willing to meet these requirements. Instead, some prefer to make healthy decisions on a smaller scale, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator. But between exercise and lifestyle activity, how active are you really? Here is what you need to know.
Today, experts recommend 150 minutes of exercise each week to stay in shape. But did you know your exercise does not need to consist of three 50-minute sessions on the treadmill? According to a recent study at Boston University, you can spread short, 10-minute bouts of exercise throughout the day and achieve the same goal. This includes cleaning the house and taking the stairs.
The researchers studied over 2,000 participants, more than half of whom were overweight. They attached motion detectors to each subject for eight days. At the end of the eight days, the researchers found that half of the participants met their weekly exercise quota. The average participant met their quota with exercise that lasted less than 10 minutes at a time. The types of exercise ranged from moderate (heavy cleaning, walking briskly and sports such as golf and badminton) to vigorous (running, hiking, shoveling and farm work).
The participants that met their 150-minute quota showed lower body mass indexes, smaller waists, lower triglycerides and better cholesterol levels than those who did not meet it. According to Nicole Glazer, assistant professor at Boston University’s School of Medicine, “this study really speaks to the idea that some activity is better than nothing. Parking a little bit farther away, getting off the bus one stop early—all of these little things can add up and are related to a healthier profile.”
For years, researchers have studied the effects of exercise from practicing sports or visiting the gym. However, according to Glazer, “This idea of lifestyle activity is one that is under-measured in research studies.” Activities such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, using a push mower instead of a riding mower, etc. can add up to a significant amount of energy expenditure. Experts stress the importance of traditional forms of exercise rather than altering lifestyle activities. But any exercise is useful.
“The levels of sedentary behavior in this country are alarming. So the concern that someone’s going to stop exercising and instead just get off the bus a stop earlier, that’s not my concern,” Glazer says. “The real concern is, is this a stepping-stone? Is this the way we can get inactive people to do any sort of activity? People will come up with any excuse to not exercise. I don’t need to worry about my giving them one. They’ll be able to think of something.”