From Oregon State University comes research that is good news for seniors or anyone else intimidated by highly structured exercise programs tied to uninterrupted clock time. As reported by ScienceDaily, a nationally representative study of 6,000 adults found that small amounts of exercise -- even in increments of a minute or two at a time, adding up to about 30 minutes a day -- can yield just as much health benefit as a hard, sustained workout in a gym.
Gym rats who disagree, go do your thing. But for many of us, there are ways to improve our health short of doing Zumba or an hour a day on the Stairmaster.
Attaching accelerometers (devices measuring physical activity; no, I'd never heard of them either) to participants, researchers found that folks who got their exercise in short bursts showed positive results equal to the gym rats on such measures as blood pressure, cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, and waist circumference. Only in Body Mass Index (BMI) did the short-burst exercisers fall a little short of the sustained-workout crowd. However, the improvement in circumference of waist indicated they were getting body-shaping benefits.
Brad Cardinal, an Oregon State professor who has been studying "lifestyle exercise" for 20 years, said the data show that simply building movement into everyday activities can bring significant health benefits.
That could mean using a rake instead of a leaf blower. Walking a few flight of stairs instead of using an elevator. Using a push mower instead of a riding mower. Taking a stroll during halftime of a child's sporting event. Getting down on the floor and doing some exercises while watching TV sports. Walking the quarter-mile to the neighborhood recreation center instead of driving. Even walking around while on a phone call.
"This is a more natural way to exercise, just to walk more and move around a bit more," said Cardinal. "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."
I believe this message is particularly relevant to seniors, who run an elevated risk of injury with high-impact exercise.
My walking obviously is important to me, but this study helps me grasp the importance of doing other kinds of exercise in small amounts throughout the day. Move around, stretch, do some light lifting -- and hey, have those floors been scrubbed lately? With this in mind, I realized today that my sturdy new walking stick carved from Carolina Hawthorn can double nicely as an exercise accessory. I now have it by my side to remind me to stretch and move and concentrate on that waist circumference, which I hope to reduce.
© Robert G. Holland 2013
Oregon State University (2013, January 28). Taking the stairs, raking leaves may have same health benefits as a trip to the gym.ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 30, 2013, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130129100118.htm
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