Gym or Raking Leaves?
How important is rigorous gym exercise versus ordinary work day exercise/tasks? New research at Oregon State University suggests the health benefits of small amounts of activity — even as small as one- and two-minute increments that add up to 30 minutes per day — can be just as beneficial as longer periods of physical exercise achieved by a trip to the gym. The nationally representative study of more than 6,000 American adults shows that an active lifestyle approach, as opposed to a structured exercise routine, may be just as beneficial in improving health outcomes, including preventing metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
"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," said Paul Loprinzi, lead author of the study. "We encourage people to seek out opportunities to be active when the choice is available. For example, rather than sitting while talking on the phone, use this opportunity to get in some activity by pacing around while talking."
Perhaps just as importantly, the researchers found that 43 percent of those who participated in the short bouts of exercise met physical activity guidelines of 30 minutes day. In comparison, less than 10 percent of those in the longer exercise bouts met those federal guidelines for exercise.
"You hear that less than 10 percent of Americans exercise and it gives the perception that people are lazy," Cardinal said. "Our research shows that more than 40 percent of adults achieved the exercise guidelines, by making movement a way of life."
Cardinal said one of the most common barriers people cite to getting enough exercise is lack of time. He said the results of this study are promising, and show that simply building movement into everyday activities can have meaningful health benefits.
Stair climbing, as an example, is the climbing of a flight of stairs. It is often described as a low-impact exercise, often for people who have recently started trying to get in shape. A common exhortation is "Take the stairs, not the elevator".
Raking leaves is another simple and ordinary exercise that can burn hundreds of calories per hour.
"This is a more natural way to exercise, just to walk more and move around a bit more," Cardinal said. "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."
There are many simple examples of ordinary exercise: raking leaves, walking to a nearby store instead of driving, and any other yard work. For the more adventurous one could try doing sit ups during a commercial break (and those breaks are really long nowadays).
For instance, the study showed those in the shorter exercise group who met physical activity guidelines had an 89 percent chance of not having metabolic syndrome, compared to 87 percent for those meeting guidelines using the structured exercise approach.
Loprinzi said the one area where small bursts of activity did not seem to equal the benefits of longer, sustained exercise was in Body Mass Index, or BMI. However, the researchers cautioned that these findings do not necessarily mean that short bouts of activity do not help with weight loss, especially since they did find a benefit on weight circumference.
The researchers emphasized that for health benefits, people should seek out opportunities to be physically active.
"In our society, you will always be presented with things that entice you to sit or be less active because of technology, like using a leaf blower instead of a rake," Cardinal said. "Making physical activity a way of life is more cost-effective than an expensive gym membership. You may be more likely to stick with it, and over the long term, you’ll be healthier, more mobile and just feel better all around."
For further information see Raking or Article.
Stairs image via Wikipedia.