Gym memberships and activity climb sharply in January as thousands of people renew their commitment to exercise more regularly. However, recent research released January 28, 2013 by Oregon State University suggests that even short periods of activity equaling 30 minutes daily provides health benefits similar to longer workouts at the gym.
It is well-known that regular physical activity enhances overall health and decreases the risk of a range of health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer. Currently, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity weekly to achieve the greatest health benefits.
Lead author of the study, Paul Loprinzi, evaluated the physical activity levels of more than 6,000 American adults who wore accelerometers to assess the extent of their daily activity. Participants in the cross-sectional study fell in to one of two categories: those that went to the gym to exercise and those who increased their physical activity through short periods of physical activity—as short as one to two minutes each—through routine daily behaviors.
Remarkably, the study found that those who participated in short periods of physical activity achieved positive health outcomes similar to those who participated in a more structured exercise routine. These benefits included lower blood pressure, decreased cholesterol levels, diminished waist circumference and reduced risk of metabolic syndrome. In fact, the structured exercise group who met the physical activity guidelines for Americans had an 87 percent chance of not having metabolic syndrome compared to 89 percent among the short period group.
These findings, published in the current issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion suggest that promoting movement as a way of life may significantly improve the health and quality of life among Americans. Indeed, as little as 15 minutes of daily activity has been shown to increase longevity.
Short periods of physical activity equivalent to 150 minutes weekly can easily be incorporated into most people’s daily routine. For example, you can go down or up a floor to use the restroom; walk to errands that are shorter than a mile; do calisthenics during commercials while watching TV or during a break at work; or walk around while talking on the phone.
It doesn’t mean you can give up on the gym. Structured exercise is still beneficial. But the findings do suggest that if you don’t want to make the time for 30 consecutive minutes of exercise you can achieve similar results by moving more during your day. If you want to maximize your structured workout try high-intensity interval training.
The key is some physical activity is better than none—so get moving daily!