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Every minute of exercise counts:

Combining brief bouts of moderate exercise is good for you.
By Beth Hart
Date: September 18 2013
Tags: exercise, health,
Editor Rating:
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No time in your busy schedule for a long workout? No problem.

Combining brief bouts of moderate to vigorous exercise over the course of the day also add up to good health, an interesting new study suggests.

Most guidelines call for at least 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity five days a week in bouts of at least 10 to 15 minutes. Some experts call for even more. People wishing to be in tip-top shape should strive to get in an hour of exercise five days a week.

But many people have trouble finding that kind of time. Is it possible to cram exercise into shorter bursts?

I came across a study recently that analysed data of 4,511 adults aged 18-64 years, led by Professor Jessie Fan of the department of Family and Consumer Studies at the University of Utah.

The study identified people who accumulated at least the minimum recommended amount of exercise, but in shorter-than-recommended bouts of 10 minutes or less. They found that people who accumulated exercise in very short bursts but who nonetheless managed at least 30 minutes of moderate activity five days a week had a lower body mass index (BMI, a measure of weight versus height) than those who didn’t get 150 minutes of exercise a week.

“We are talking about a brisk walk at three miles per hour, or anything of higher intensity like going up and down a flight of stairs or jumping rope,” Professor Fan says.

“This doesn’t change the recommendation of 150 minutes of brisk exercise a week or 30 minutes on five days. It is just a different way of accumulating this.”

The findings reinforce suggestions that people should look for simple ways to get short bouts of exercise. For example:

  • parking at the far end of the car park and walking briskly to where you’re going
  • walking or cycling with your child to and from school, rather than going by car (and see also this great App that was featured on Motherpedia yesterday)
  • taking the stairs quickly instead of using the escalator or lift, or
  • dancing energetically to a favourite song – which is a great thing to do with your kids also for a bit of family fun!

Professor Fan suggests that if you spend most of your time working at a computer, you should set a timer and every half hour get up and do a minute or two of something energetic.

The study isn’t the first to suggest that a little exercise is better than none, and that accumulating shorter bouts of exercise is better than not missing exercise days due to lack of time for a longer workout.

It’s a story that’s been developing for some time and just adds more fuel to the fire that there is no excuse for not exercising.

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