Rake leaves, take stairs

New research at Oregon State University suggests small amounts of exercise — even as small as one- and two-minute increments that add up to 30 minutes per day — can be just as beneficial as longer bouts of exercise achieved by a trip to the gym.

The nationally representative study of more than 6,000 American adults shows that being active may be just as beneficial as structured exercise.

"Our results suggest that engaging in an active lifestyle ... compared to a structured exercise approach, may be just as beneficial in improving various health outcomes," said Paul Loprinzi, lead author of the study, which was published in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

For example, rather than sitting while talking on the phone, pace around while talking, he said.

Brad Cardinal, an OSU professor of exercise and sport science and co-author of the study, said one of the most common barriers people cite to getting enough exercise is lack of time. He said the results of this study 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. "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."

For example, Cardinal said, instead of driving half a mile, bike or walk the same distance; instead of using a riding lawn mower, use a push mower. Instead of sitting through TV commercials, do some sit-ups, push-ups or jumping jacks during commercials; and instead of sitting and being a spectator at a child's sporting event, walk around during the halftime break.

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