Even very short bursts of moderate physical activity can accumulate to give the same health benefits as dedicated bouts of formal exercise.

Any good doctor will tell you proper exercise improves general health and prolongs life. But, what “proper exercise” is being re-defined thanks to Duke University researchers and the National Cancer Institute.

 

A new publication in the Journal of the American Heart Association, challenges the conventional wisdom that exercise should raise your heart rate for at least 10 minutes. It seems the life-extending benefits of physical activity accumulated in short bursts throughout your day are the same.

 

Activity was tracked for almost 5000 adults who carried accelerometers around for an average of 6.6 years. The researchers correlated health status with the amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each subject accumulated.

 

Indeed the researchers found a positive correlation between physical activity and life span. Participants active for at least 30 minutes in each day were one third less likely to die.  The exciting part, these health benefits held regardless of whether the physical activity was concentrated into workout sessions or spread out throughout the day.

 

It’s clear that being active is essential for good health and maximal longevity. Some experts have gone as far as to label sitting on our butts as the new smoking. But for many of us, regular formal exercise routines and lengthy workouts are just not happening.  Now we know every short burst of physical activity throughout our day can add up to be just as good for longevity.

 

The authors recommend a moderate-to-vigorous physical activity target of 150 minutes total per week. Examples of moderate physical activity according to the According to the American Heart Association include:

 

·      Walking briskly

·      Bicycling leisurely

·      Water aerobics

·         Tennis,

·         Ballroom dancing

·         General gardening.

 

Think about all those times in the day that you could be moving instead of sitting or lying around. In those free moments or when you’re feeling bored, just take the opportunity to do something active.  How about doing a handful of jumping jacks or a minute of jogging in place? Even a brisk walk down the hall to the restroom will add in. Be creative and find ways to integrate more physical movement into your day.

 

Walk or bike instead of driving whenever possible or climb the stairs instead of using elevator or escalator.  Try organize your social or professional gatherings around activities instead of sitting around in restaurants or board rooms.  Do your own household chores such as gardening and cleaning. Play with kids more, take the dog for a long walks, or help carry the groceries in. When you look for them, opportunities for being more active can be found all around.

 

So don’t feel guilty if you can’t make it out to the gym for that 30 minute workout 5 days a week.  Take advantage of all those brief opportunities throughout your day to be active.  Now we know they all add up and can be just as good for our life span.

 

Journal of the American Heart Association. 2018; 7:e007678. March 22, 2018

https://doi.org/10.1161/JAHA.117.007678