The health benefits of small amounts of activity - even as small as one- and two-minute increments that add up to 30 minutes per day - can be just as beneficial as a trip to the gym.
This is according to a new research at Oregon State University.
The nationally representative study of more than 6,000 American adults showed that an active lifestyle approach, as opposed to structured exercise, may be just as beneficial in improving health outcomes, including preventing metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
"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," said Paul Loprinzi, lead author of the study.
Perhaps just as importantly, the researchers found that 43 percent of those who participated in the "short bouts" of exercise met physical activity guidelines of 30 minutes day. In comparison, less than 10 percent of those in the longer exercise bouts met those federal guidelines for exercise.
Loprinzi, who is an assistant professor at Bellarmine University, conducted the research as a doctoral student working in the lab of Brad Cardinal at Oregon State University. Cardinal, a professor of exercise and sport science, is co-author of the study.
Cardinal, who has studied the "lifestyle exercise" model for more than 20 years, said the results of this study are promising, and show 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.
For example, Cardinal said instead of driving half a mile, try biking or walking the same distance; instead of using a riding lawn mower, use a push lawn mower. Instead of sitting through TV commercials, try doing some sit-ups, push-ups, or jumping jacks during the commercial breaks; and instead of sitting and being a spectator at a child's sporting event, try walking around during the halftime break.
The findings have been published in the current issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion.