Getting more exercise – whether to relieve chronic back pain, reduce your risk of heart disease, lose weight or any other reason – may seem like a drudging feat. Often, people claim that they don’t have the time or money to get fit. This claim is based on the premise that being healthier requires a tremendous amount of effort, usually in combination with a gym membership. It turns out that investing a large chunk of time – and money – at the gym may not be necessary; performing smaller exertions spread throughout the day may be better for your health.
In an interview with Chai Woodham of U.S. News & World Report, Mayo Clinic doctor and researcher James Levine explains how regular, low-grade activity trumps infrequent, high-intensity exercise coupled with prolonged sitting throughout the day. Levine says that people who sit all day then power through a session at the gym are only significantly regulating their blood sugar and triglyceride (fat in the blood) levels one time during the day. Someone who does 15 minutes of moderate activity every hour may have better overall health. As Levine puts it, “that repeated activity throughout the day has a bigger total effect on blood sugar and triglycerides than that one episode at the gym.”
Woodham’s article can be found at health.usnews.com.
Levine’s words are in no way designed to disparage intense workouts. Rather, they 1) show that health benefits like weight loss, lower cholesterol and blood glucose control can be attained from low-grade, frequent activity, and 2) that going to the gym doesn’t give you license to sit for the rest of the day. Shifting the perception of exercise from something that happens in a designated place at a designated time to something that occurs throughout the day gives a whole new take on what exercise means; it may make for a more feasible exercise plan for busy people with little time or money to spare at the gym.
How To Exercise Throughout The Day
• If you normally sit at work, try to stand instead for half the time. See if there are surfaces at your workplace that will allow you to stand while working on a computer and keeping a 90 degree angle at the elbows to allow for ergonomic typing. In order to avoid craning your head down, get a separate keyboard that you can plug into your laptop while elevating the computer so that the screen is at eye level. If you work with desktops, talk to your employer about the possibility of investing in standing desks.
• Sit on an exercise ball or balance disc cushion at work; these devices destabilize your sitting surface, giving you a low-grade core workout while you sit.
• Exercise while watching TV or reading. Stationary bikes, elliptical machine and stair stepper machines are idea for this.
• Incorporate cardio whenever possible. Start your day off with a quick warm-up stretch and set of jumping jacks, butt kicks or any other simple cardio move. Park the car a couple blocks from work and briskly walk to and from work. Take a 10-minute walk after work to help clear your head.
Exercising more doesn’t have to require huge sacrifices. Making a few simple changes to your daily routine can open up opportunities for exercise. Most importantly, get out of your chair as much as possible; sitting is a main cause of lower back pain, obesity and related health conditions.