A paper recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine1, shows that a style of exercise called high-intensity incidental physical activity (HIIPA) or regular, incidental activity that gets you huffing and puffing, is likely to produce health benefits, even if you do it in 30-second bursts, spread over the day.
The findings of this research suggests there are benefits for everyone, including people who are unfit or overweight. Until recently, most health authorities recommended activity lasting for at least ten continuous minutes, although there was no credible scientific evidence behind this. In fact, research suggests physical activity intensity may be more important for the long-term health of middle-aged and older people than total duration.
“Regular incidental activity that gets you huffing and puffing even for a few seconds has great promise for health,” said Emmanuel Stamatakis, Professor of Physical Activity, Lifestyle and Population Health in the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre and School of Public Health.
“We know from several large studies of middle aged and older adults that doing vigorous exercise has great long-term health benefits, but many people find it very difficult to start and stick to an exercise program,” added Professor Stamatakis.
“The beauty of HIIPA and the idea of using activities we are already doing as part of everyday life is that it is much more realistic and achievable for most people.”
This is good news for those of us who think they are beyond exercise and gaining fitness. The idea is getting your heart rate up, in short bursts at your level of fitness.
Tips on building movement into your day
There are plenty of free and accessible ways to incorporate incidental physical activity into our routines, basically upping the intensity of the activities that you are already doing daily. You should do them to a level that gets you huffing and puffing to gain the benefit.
With this in mind, here’s some ideas to get you started:
- doing housework – such as vacuuming, sweeping or similar
- playing outside with the kids or grandkids – pick up your pace when you are throwing and retrieving the ball
- try doing a few laps of your favourite stroke in your home or local pool (getting the heart rate up a bit)
- replacing short car trips with walking or parking further away and briskly walking to your destination, such as leaving the car at the edge of the shopping centre car park and carrying the shopping to your car
- “dance like no-ones watching” – dance around the living room
- walking up the stairs instead of using the lift or walking up the escalator instead of standing still
- looking for opportunities to walk uphill
- doing three or four “walking sprints” during longer stretches of walking by stepping up your pace for a short time (until you feel your heart rate is increasing and you find yourself out of breath)
- taking your dog for a walk and pick up the pace when walking with them
- when you are getting up out of a chair – sit how and get up a few times until you start to increase your breathing – you can do this a few times a day
- walking to the letterbox to get your mail –you could walk to the end of the street instead and get your mail on the way back
- carrying your groceries bags out of the car, one by one, so you have to make a few trips back and forth
The simple message is that you need to huff and puff regularly at various times during the day to gain the benefit. We hope that this motivates you to make a start to move more – it’s worth it!
1 The editorial, co-authored by academics from the University of Sydney, Loughborough University, University College London, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and the National Research Centre for the Working Environment (Denmark), was prompted by recent changes to the 2018 US Physical Activity Guidelines, the most comprehensive review of physical activity and health.
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