We’ve all heard the advice to find ways to be more active during the day: Take the stairs instead of the elevator; park in a spot far away from the store entrance to walk a little farther; or get off the bus one stop early and walk to your destination.
While it is relatively easy to make these changes, do you ever wonder if they really make a meaningful difference for your health? I know I do. I always take the stairs, but it just doesn’t feel as important as putting on my sneakers and heading out the door for a planned brisk walk or run. Turns out it is.
A new study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion reminded me that literally every step I take during the day really does make me healthier.
The study’s results showed that people who met the physical activity guidelines (at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week) had similar health outcomes regardless of whether they achieved it using a structured exercise approach (10 minutes or more of exercise at a time) or an active lifestyle approach (less than 10 minutes of exercise at a time). The authors looked at several positive health outcomes associated with activity, such as total cholesterol, blood pressure, and waist circumference.
The one exception was Body Mass Index (BMI), which had more favorable results using a structured exercise approach.
For me, this study comes at the perfect time. It’s a new year—a time when I feel a renewed motivation to make positive changes in my life. As I look back on 2012, I found myself using time as an excuse for not exercising as often as I used to. Changing work and family responsibilities have made getting to the gym more difficult than it had been in the past. This study reinforces the notion that there is always time to be physically active. Just because I can’t make it to the gym or out the door for a walk or run, doesn’t mean I can’t choose to be active. I just need to be more creative—every moment of the day offers a chance to move. Every step I take truly does have a positive impact on my health. My challenge for 2013: find fun ways to move more all day long.
Join me in finding fun ways throughout the day to move more. Here are three things I’m going to try to work into my lifestyle this month:
1. Take a scheduled break every hour to move at my desk. Here are two videos I’ll use for inspiration: One is a 3-Minute Office Workout and the other is 10-Minutes of Exercise You Can do Anywhere.
2. Stand up and walk around while I’m on the phone
3. Walk my mail to the mailbox down the street instead of leaving it at my door to be picked up.
What ideas do you have to be more active during the day? Please share them.
Mary Kennedy, MS, is a Health Fitness Specialist certified by the American College of Sports Medicine.