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May 2013

No Time for Exercise? An Active Lifestyle May Be the Solution

Life can certainly be hectic. So much so, that many of us can't seem to fit in exercise. As a result, we're missing out on some valuable health benefits, such as a stronger heart. Fortunately, recent research suggests simply moving more every day may be the solution.

Photo of a woman running along a trail

Advocating for an active lifestyle

Only two out of 10 Americans meet the government's Physical Activity Guidelines. Those guidelines encourage at least two hours and 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise every week, plus two sessions of muscle-strengthening activities. Many of us may be shunning structured exercise time. But we may be able to meet the guidelines with a less stringent approach to fitness-namely, an active lifestyle.

What does it mean to live an active lifestyle? It's consciously choosing to be more active during the day. For instance, you bike to work instead of drive. You opt for the stairs rather than the elevator. You pace or walk while talking on the phone.

In a recent study in the American Journal of Health Promotion, researchers followed the activity levels of more than 6,300 adults. They found that engaging in short periods of activity-less than 10 minutes at a time during the day-seemed to impart the same health benefits as exercising in 10-minute-plus periods. Important health indicators-like blood pressure readings and cholesterol levels-were similar with both activity patterns. The results suggest people who live an active lifestyle can be as healthy as those who partake in structured exercise.

Moving more definitely matters

Moving your body has important health benefits. Being active can help you live longer. That's the conclusion of a recent study in PLOS One. Researchers tracked the physical activity of more than 1,900 adults older than 50. Those who lived more sedentary lifestyles were more likely to die, even if they exercised.

Why the lift in longevity? Physical activity can lower your risk for a long list of health ills: heart disease, diabetes, obesity, colon cancer, breast cancer, and arthritis. It can improve mental health, build muscle mass, and strengthen bone. With such power, you could consider physical activity a practical cure-all.

Taking the first steps to a longer, healthier life isn't hard. It's a subtle shift in mindset. You don't necessarily have to schedule 30 minutes of physical activity every day. Rather, as the evidence suggests, you just need to get off the coach more.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Being More Active Every Day

Every bit of physical activity helps. And the more you move, the better for your body. Just choose activity over inertia. Below are some ideas to help you be more active every day-without a costly gym membership:

  • Take a walk on your lunch break.

  • Play a game of basketball or tag with your children.

  • Clean up the garden or house. Chores such as raking, vacuuming, and mopping count as exercise.

  • Dance or jog in place while watching television.

  • Park far away from store entrances. Walking of any kind is a definite plus.

Take this quiz to learn more about being active.

Online Resources

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Be Active Your Way: A Guide for Adults

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans