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Oregon State Finds Taking Stairs and Raking Leaves May Equal a Trip to the Gym

New research at Oregon State University College of Public Health and Human Sciences suggests the health benefits of small amounts of activity, even as small as one- and two-minute increments that add up to 30 minutes per day, can be just as beneficial as longer bouts of physical exercise achieved by a trip to the gym.

The nationally representative study of more than 6,000 American adults shows that an active lifestyle approach, as opposed to structured exercise, may be just as beneficial in improving health outcomes, including preventing metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

“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,” said Dr. Paul Loprinzi, lead author of the study. “We encourage people to seek out opportunities to be active when the choice is available. For example, rather than sitting while talking on the phone, use this opportunity to get in some activity by pacing around while talking.” 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 day. In comparison, less than 10 percent of those in the longer exercise bouts met those federal guidelines for exercise.

Dr. Loprinzi, who is an assistant professor at Bellarmine University, conducted the research as a doctoral student working in the lab of Dr. Brad Cardinal at Oregon State University. Dr. Cardinal, a professor of exercise and sport science, is co-author of the study, which is in the current issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion. “You hear that less than 10 percent of Americans exercise and it gives the perception that people are lazy,” Dr. Cardinal said. “Our research shows that more than 40 percent of adults achieved the exercise guidelines by making movement a way of life.”

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[Photo: Dr. Brad Cardinal]