Movement throughout the day as good as going to the gym?

Gym memberships and activity climb sharply in January as thousands of people renew their commitment to exercise more regularly. Those who have been mainstays of the gym anticipate this and also know that most people will not continue to patronize the gym come February. If your one of those that can’t seem to stay committed to the gym, don’t worry, researchers at Oregon State University assert that even short periods of activity equaling 30 minutes of daily activity provides health benefits similar to longer workouts at the gym.(1)

It is well-known that regular physical activity enhances overall health and decreases the risk of a range of health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Currently, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity weekly to achieve the greatest health benefits.

The OSU researchers evaluated the physical activity levels of more than 6,000 American adults who wore accelerometers to assess the extent of their daily activity. Participants in the cross-sectional study fell into one of two categories: 1) those that went to the gym to exercise and 2) those who increased their physical activity through short periods of movement — as short as one to two minutes each — through routine daily behaviors.

Remarkably, the study found that those who participated in short periods of physical activity achieved positive health outcomes similar to those who participated in a more structured exercise routine. These benefits included lower blood pressure, decreased cholesterol levels, diminished waist circumference and reduced risk of metabolic syndrome. In fact, the structured exercise group who met the physical activity guidelines for Americans had an 87 percent chance of not having metabolic syndrome compared to 89 percent among the short period group.

These findings, published in the American Journal of Health Promotion suggest that promoting movement as a way of life may significantly improve the health and quality of life among Americans who are living more sedentary lives generally. Indeed, as little as 15 minutes of daily activity has been shown to increase longevity.

Short periods of physical activity equivalent to 150 minutes weekly can easily be incorporated into most people’s daily routine. For example, you can go down or up a floor to use the restroom; walk to errands that are shorter than a mile; do calisthenics during commercials while watching TV or during a break at work; or pace while talking on the phone.

It doesn’t necessarily mean you can give up on the gym. Structured exercise is still beneficial and high-intensity exercise provides added benefits such as increased metabolism and accelerated fat burning (see TransformWise). But the findings do suggest that if you don’t want to make the time for 30 consecutive minutes of exercise you can achieve similar results by moving more throughout the day to equal 30 minutes’ total. The key is some physical activity is better than none —so get moving daily!

(1) Loprinzi PD, Cardinal BJ. Association between biologic outcomes and objectively measured physical activity accumulated in ≥ 10-minute bouts and <10-minute bouts. Am J Health Promot. 2013 Jan-Feb;27(3):143-51.

How to increase longevity in only 13 minutes per day

Countless explorers have searched for the fountain of youth, kings have sought to live forever, and people today do whatever it takes to look and feel younger, but what if you could increase your longevity by doing something for about 13 minutes daily. Would you do it? Well you may be able to add three years to your life and reduce your risk of death through participating in about 13 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per day.(1)

While Americans are advised to get 150 minutes (about 21 minutes daily, seven days per week), it may not take that much to increase longevity and reduce all causes of death according to a 2011 study published in The Lancet. To determine the longevity benefits (not the health benefits) of 150 minutes of physical activity per week researchers evaluated more than 416,000 Taiwanese individuals from 1996 to 2008 (average follow-up of 8.05 years). The amount of weekly exercise was recorded by self-administered questionnaires and then individual’s activity levels were categorized as: inactive, or low, medium, high, or very high activity.

What researchers found was that even those in the low-volume activity group who exercised for 92 minutes per week reduced their risk of all causes of death by 14 percent and increased their life woman-1426435_1920expectancy by three years when compared to the inactive group. Those who exercised for an additional 15 minutes per day further decreased their risk of all causes of death by 4 percent and cancer mortality by 1 percent. Inactive individuals had a 17 percent increased risk of mortality compared to the low-activity group.

With the busy schedules and sedentary lifestyles of many people, making time for the recommended 150 minutes of exercise can be a daunting task. However, the results of this study suggests that even minimal exercise – as little as 15 minutes per day – can have a significant impact on your overall health, with increasing returns with longer exercise intervals.

If 15 minutes seems like too long to commit to then you’ll love what other researchers discovered. They found that it only takes 60 seconds of strenuous (high-intensity) exercise daily to get the same physiological effects (improved health and fitness) as 45 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (traditional interval training).(2) Participants committed 10 minutes to exercise that involved three 20-second sprints on a bike, separated by two minutes of low-intensity cycling. A 2-minute warmup and 3-minute cool-down session were also included, equaling 10 minutes total exercise time.

It is remarkable, but not surprising to those of us who have been advocating high-intensity interval training for years, that 10 minutes equates to 45 minutes of steady-state cardio training. While the authors didn’t evaluate longevity as part of the study, the improved cardiovascular indices do suggest the possibility of an increased healthy lifespan.

Personally, I have been using high-intensity interval training (or metabolic resistance training) for years because of the fantastic benefits achieved with this style of activity. Essentially, you have periods of near maximum effort (say 1 minute) followed by short periods (15 seconds) of rest or light activity like jogging in place completed as a series or circuit. This style of exercise has vast benefits to human health as I report in my book TransforwmWise.Wen CP, Man Wai JP, Tsai MK, et al. Minimum amount of physical activity for reduced mortality and extended life expectancy: a prospective cohort study. 2011 Oct;378(9798):1244-53.

(1) Wen CP, Man Wai JP, Tsai MK, et al. Minimum amount of physical activity for reduced mortality and extended life expectancy: a prospective cohort study. 2011 Oct;378(9798):1244-53.

(2) Gillen JB, Martin BJ, MacInnis MJ, et al. Twelve Weeks of Sprint Interval Training Improves Indices of Cardiometabolic Health Similar to Traditional Endurance Training despite a Five-Fold Lower Exercise Volume and Time Commitment. PLoS One. 2016 Apr 26;11(4):e0154075.

Gardening and fishing improve heart health in seniors

If you’re like most people, the older you get the more concerned you become about developing cardiovascular disease (CVD). You probably also know that regular physical activity decreases the risk of CVD. Too often we associate regular physical activity to long bouts of exercise in the gym when the reality is cumulative daily activity through everyday tasks can be just as beneficial. Don’t take my word for it, research from the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences suggests simple activities — like gardening — can reduce CVD risk.(1)

Age is certainly a factor when it comes to CVD risk according to statistics. Surprisingly, the American Heart Association estimates that males 45 years or older have a lifetime risk of developing CVD near 67 percent. Women fair only slightly better with close to a 50 percent chance of developing CVD. Cardiovascular diseases currently account for about one-third of all deaths in the United States taking a huge toll on families and economies. It is estimated that 935,000 heart attacks and 795,000 strokes occur each year, and CVD costs are estimated to be an astonishing $444 billion annually.

fisherman-591699_1920The Swedish study, published online October 28, 2013, in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, monitored the cardiovascular health of nearly 4,000 men and women aged 60 for 12.5 years. Lab tests associated with heart attack and stroke risk — cholesterol levels, blood sugar, and blood clotting factor —were measured as well as physical examinations completed. In addition, participants reported lifestyle behaviors including diet, daily physical activity during leisure time, exercise, smoking and alcohol intake at the beginning of the study.

What the researchers observed was that those who were most physically active reduced their risk of heart attack and stroke by 27 percent and risk of all-cause mortality decreased by 30 percent, when compared with the least active participants. Remarkably, the physical activity didn’t need to be formal exercise in the gym. Rather, being generally active in daily activities, such as gardening, fishing, car maintenance, do it yourself and berry picking, was linked to decreased risk. This is important considering many individuals over age 60 choose not to exercise, but are likely to go fishing or to garden.

The take away of this study is that seniors can reduce CVD risk by participating in regular daily activities requiring movement. On the other hand, remaining sedentary can disrupt tissue, organ and cellular function, which may lead to ill health and increased CVD risk. The study authors recommend more than two hours of light-intensity activity (doesn’t cause you to sweat), or 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (makes you sweat) every week to get the greatest benefits. For tips to make activity a way of life see pages 107-108 of see The Doctor’s Guide to Surviving When Modern Medicine Fails.


(1) Ekblom-Bak E, Ekblom B, Vikstrom M, et al. The importance of non-exercise physical activity for cardiovascular health and longevity. Brit J Sports Med. 2014;48:233-38.