Even Low-Intensity Workouts Carry Health Benefits: Study

Wednesday, 22 Jan 2014 05:15 PM

By Nick Tate

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Spending hours huffing and puffing at the gym isn't the only way to get the health benefits of exercise. New research has found even a few minutes a day of light physical activity can be beneficial.
 
The findings, reported by Oregon State University researchers and published in the journal Preventive Medicine, indicate window-shopping at the mall, playing an instrument, fishing along a riverbank, or dancing all count as light physical activity. Even brief bursts of light activity during the day are much healthier alternatives to sitting for long periods of time, according to a Medical Xpress report on the study.

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"It is preferable to get at least 30 minutes a day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity in each day, but we now know that if you sit for the remainder of the day after getting this dose of exercise, you might not necessarily be escaping the risk of developing chronic disease," lead researcher Paul Loprinzi, a former doctoral student in OSU's College of Public Health and Human Sciences who is now an assistant professor at Bellarmine University.
 
"These findings demonstrate the importance of minimizing sedentary activities and replacing some of them with light-intensity activities, such as pacing back and forth when on the phone, standing at your desk periodically instead of sitting, and having walking meetings instead of sit-down meetings."
 
The study, which tracked the activity patterns of more than 5,500 Americans, found that nearly half did not engage in a sufficient amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity — at least 150 minutes a week is recommended — and spent more time in sedentary mode than even doing light physical activity.
 
"That's actually rather frightening," said Bradley Cardinal, co-director of the Sport and Exercise Psychology Program at Oregon State University and co-author of the study. "About half of the people in this country are incredibly sedentary — basically, couch potatoes. And that can have some very negative effects on one's health."
 
On the positive side, the researchers found that participants who did engage in at least some light activity during the day had favorable levels of triglycerides and insulin.
Cardinal said results can vary with individuals, based on age, fitness levels, movement "pace" and other factors. But, in general, even a little activity is better than none.
 
"Someone just ambling along on a leisurely stroll may not get the same benefits as someone moving briskly — what we call a 'New York City walk,' " Cardinal said, "but it still is much better than lying on the couch watching TV. Even sitting in a rocking chair and rocking back-and-forth is better than lying down or just sitting passively.
 
"Think about all the small things you can do in a day and you'll realize how quickly they can add up."
 
Some tips the researchers recommend:
  • Go on a leisurely bicycle ride, at about 5-6 miles an hour;
  • Use a Wii Fit program that requires a light effort, like yoga or balancing;
  • Do some mild calisthenics or stretching;
  • Play a musical instrument;
  • Work in the garden.
"Even everyday home activities like sweeping, dusting, vacuuming, doing dishes, watering the plants, or carrying out the trash have some benefits," Cardinal said. "Remember, it's making sure you're moving more than you're sitting that's the key." 

ObamaCare: You Can Win With The Facts

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