If you try to add more activity to your day, such as taking the stairs, walking more for short tasks, and meeting a pedometer step goal, will you reduce your health risks? An exciting new study compared people whose daily activity was in bouts of less than 10 minutes with those who exercised for the recommended 10 minutes or more at a time. It was startling to see that far more of those who had short bouts of activity (42.9%) achieved 30 minutes a day of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity compared to only 9.7% of those who spent a continuous 10 minutes or more in activity.
Brief Physical Activity Throughout Day Reduces Health Risks
The great news for these "secret exercisers" is that their health risks for metabolic syndrome, and their values for CRP, HDL, triglycerides and waist circumference were lowered as much as those who reached the recommended amounts of exercise with bouts of 10 minutes or more. The only measurement where the 10-minutes-or-more exercisers did better was body mass index.
Too Busy to Workout
Lack of time is one of the leading excuses for not exercising. This study points to good news that you don't have to set aside dedicated exercise time if you just add more activity throughout your day. One of the best ways to judge whether you are achieving more activity is by wearing a pedometer. The study data was drawn from the NHANES study with thousands of subjects who wore activity monitors to measure how much they were moving and at what intensity.
A Pedometer Goal Would Work for Health Benefits
I asked researcher Brad Cardinal, PhD. whether his results showed that a lifestyle-activity goal such as 10,000 steps per day on your pedometer was as likely to produce positive health outcomes as focusing on longer workouts. "Absolutely! Our study would suggest that obtaining that number of steps, even if accumulated in a series of short activity bouts of less than 10 minutes -- and even as low or 1-2 minutes -- results in substantial health gains. We actually examined far less activity than 10,000 steps per day. We considered 30 minutes per day of accumulated moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and found the same health benefits as longer bouts of greater than 10 minutes of physical activity totaling 30 minutes."
Find Ways to Be More Active More Often During the Day
The study found even better health benefits for those who accumulated vigorous-intensity minutes, such as climbing stairs. I asked Dr. Cardinal to suggest how we can think of adding short bursts of activity throughout the day. "When faced with a choice, choose the active option as much as possible. This might include choosing the stairs instead of riding the escalator or elevator or doing calisthenics during TV commercials instead of sitting through them. There are almost always activity options that can be chosen. At a child's sporting event, for example, during the halftime break, a person could go for a 10-minute brisk walk. Try a walking meeting, etc. It really boils down to the idea of seeking out opportunities to be physically active. Enjoy the challenge, fun, and health benefits associated with building more physical activity into your day."
Infographic: Do This Instead of This
Photo © Wendy Bumgardner
Paul D. Loprinzi and Bradley J. Cardinal. "Association Between Biologic Outcomes and Objectively Measured Physical Activity Accumulated in ≥10-Minute Bouts and <10-Minute Bouts." American Journal of Health Promotion. January/February 2013, Vol. 27, No. 3.