April Flowers for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
A new study, led by Oregon State University, suggests that the health benefits of small amounts of activity can be just as good for a person as longer bouts of exercise achieved by a trip to the gym. The findings of this study, published in a recent issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion, describe these small amounts as one-and-two minute increments that add up to 30 minutes a day.
More than 6,000 American adults from across the nation participated in the study, showing that an active lifestyle approach, as opposed to structured exercise, might be just as good for improving health outcomes. This includes 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, assistant professor at Bellarmine University and former doctoral student at Oregon State. “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.”
“You hear that less than 10 percent of Americans exercise and it gives the perception that people are lazy,” said Brad Cardinal of Oregon State. “Our research shows that more than 40 percent of adults achieved the exercise guidelines, by making movement a way of life.”
Cardinal has studied the “lifestyle exercise” model for over two decades. He says one of the most common barriers people cite to getting enough exercise is a lack of time. One of the most promising results of this study shows that simply building movement into everyday activities can have meaningful health benefits.
“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.”
Instead of driving half a mile, for example, Cardinal suggests biking or walking the same distance. Instead of using a riding lawn mower, try a push lawn mower. Try doing pushups and sit-ups during commercials instead of sitting on the couch waiting for the show to return.
Study participants wore accelerometers, an objective tool for measuring physical activity. For the purpose of the study, those who were in the short bout group could be moving around as little as one or two minutes at a time. Positive results in blood pressure, cholesterol, metabolic syndrome and waist circumference were seen in the “short bouts” group.
Those participants in the short bouts group who met physical activity guidelines had an 89 percent chance of not having metabolic syndrome. Those meeting guidelines in the structured exercise group had an 87 percent chance.
The team says the one place that structured exercise seemed to have the advantage is in Body Mass Index, or BMI. This does not mean, however, that short bouts of movement do not help with weight loss, especially since they did benefit on waist circumference.
“There are inherent limitations in BMI as a surrogate measure of fat and health in general,” Cardinal said. “People can still be ℠fit´ and ℠fat.´”
For true health benefits, the team highlights the need for people to 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.”