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December 2013

Want to Control Your Weight? Add Brisk Activity to Your Day

Exercise can sometimes feel like a chore—an activity at the bottom of your daily to-do list. But finding time for fitness is important. That’s especially true if you are trying to lose or control your weight. Thanks to a recent study, fitting it in may be easier than you think.

The short and long of it

In the American Journal of Health Promotion, researchers describe how they analyzed the activity levels of more than 4,500 adults ages 18 to 64. Study participants wore a device called an accelerometer for 7 days. It measured the duration and intensity of their physical activity.

With the resulting data, investigators divided activity levels into 4 types. There were higher-intensity short bouts, higher-intensity long bouts, lower-intensity short bouts, and lower-intensity long bouts. Short bouts were periods of activity that lasted less than 10 minutes. Long ones were 10 minutes or more. Higher-intensity activity was considered moderate to vigorous movement, such as brisk walking.

What did the data show? Men and women who registered more bouts of higher-intensity movement tended to weigh less. Of particular note: It didn’t matter if participants partook in shorter or longer stints of such activity. Both were equally effective in controlling weight. What’s more, longer periods of brisk activity lowered the risk for obesity by 5% in women and 2% in men.

A sedentary problem

Too few Americans exercise enough. Experts recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity on most days of the week. But only 20% of adults are meeting those physical activity guidelines. Working in some brisk activity—if only for 10 minutes at a time—can help you exercise more, as well as control your weight.

Need some ideas? Try taking a brisk walk 3 times a day for 10 minutes. Opt for the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible. Or ramp up the intensity of household chores. You can also do simple exercises anywhere—at home or on the job. Try these 2:

Leg raise

  • Stand behind a sturdy chair. Hold it for balance.

  • Lift one leg up behind you. Don’t bend your knee or lean forward. Repeat for 10 to 15 times.

  • Switch to the other leg.

Wall push-ups

  • Place your palms against a wall at shoulder width and height.

  • With your feet flat on the floor, lean into the wall, bending your elbows.

  • After 1 second, push yourself away from the wall until your arms are straight.

  • Perform the movement 10 to 15 times.

Exercising on the Job

Sitting too much at work may be contributing to the obesity problem. Past research has documented that people with sedentary occupations sit an average of 1.5 to 2 hours more on work days compared with days off.

New gadgets, such as treadmill desks, are helping workers be more active on the job. In 1 study, a small group of office employees were given treadmill desks for 1 year. Researchers noted that the workers' daily activity levels increased while using the desks. Participants also lost weight.

Want to lose weight at work? Click here. 

Online resources

CDC - Physical Activity

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute – Guide to Physical Activity

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease – Tips to Help You Get Active

Online Medical Reviewer: Foster, Sara, RN, MPH
Date Last Reviewed: 11/20/2013
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