Improve With Incidental Fitness

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We tend to think of “exercise” in very compartmentalized terms. Spend a half-hour on the elliptical trainer or an hour in the weight room, and that’s your fitness-boosting “exercise” for the day. But a new study published in the March issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise reveals that incidental physical activity — everything from walking to the window to pulling weeds to chopping vegetables — has benefits, too. Researchers at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, supplied healthy but sedentary and overweight men and women with accelerometers that recorded their steps and other movements over the course of four to seven days. As might be expected, none of the subjects hit the advised guidelines of at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day. But those who moved most did have significantly higher cardio fitness levels than those who moved least. This is hardly an endorsement for giving up regular workouts, but researchers do endorse what we might call “planning your unplanned activity” — using the stairs, taking the long way to the water cooler or spending more time chasing your dogs or kids (or wife?) around. Along with all that time in the gym, little things like this can actually make you healthier and happier.