No time for a workout? No problem: Short bursts of activity, such as taking a flight of stairs, shoveling snow, or pacing while chatting on the phone, provided they add up to 30 minutes of day, are just as effective as an extended gym session.
Researchers at Oregon State University announced last week they have analyzed data on physical activity and health markers such as cholesterol and blood pressure for more than 6,000 U.S. adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) from 2003 to 2004 and from 2005 to 2006.
"Our results suggest that engaging in an active lifestyle approach, compared to a structured exercise approach, may be just as beneficial in improving various health outcomes," says Paul Loprinzi, lead author of the study. "We encourage people to seek out opportunities to be active when the choice is available."
Perhaps just as importantly, the researchers found that 43 percent of those who participated in the "short bouts" of exercise met physical activity guidelines of 30 minutes a day.
"You hear that less than 10 percent of Americans exercise and it gives the perception that people are lazy," doctoral student Brad Cardinal adds. "Our research shows that more than 40 percent of adults achieved the exercise guidelines by making movement a way of life."
A separate study out of Copenhagen suggests that 30 minutes of daily exercise is just as effective -- if not more -- than working out for a full hour. The results were published in August 2012 in the American Journal of Physiology and involved monitoring the weight loss efforts of 60 heavyset but otherwise healthy Danish men.