To Your Health: Exercise in short bursts can have positive effect on health

By Alfred Casale - To Your Health
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“I don’t have time” or “I’ll do it tomorrow” — it’s so easy to make excuses about why you can’t exercise. Between work, family and home responsibilities, plus some time to relax, many people feel there’s little time left in the day to fit in a 30-minute workout.

However, a new study shows that working out for longer periods of time may not actually be any better for your health than finding a few minutes here and a few minutes there.

People usually think that in order to get the benefit of exercise they need to spend 30 minutes walking, take part in an aerobics class at their gym or run a few miles — and a lot of people have a problem with dedicating a big chunk of time to the activity. In fact, we medical types have been partly responsible, often stressing some minimal amount of exercise that’s needed. But getting your heart rate up for as little as a few minutes at a time can be good for your health.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) created physical activity guidelines to help children and adults improve their health. They recommend that adults complete at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week. Children should aim for 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

Exercising regularly can help you manage your weight, improve your mood, and prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, depression and even some cancers. These health benefits are pretty hard to ignore, and they can make you feel great.

In the past, experts thought that you’d gain the most benefit from exercising about 10 minutes at a time. However, new research shows bursts of exercise as short as two minutes have the same health benefits.

People who moved up to an hour a day cut their risk of dying in half, regardless of how they accumulated those minutes.

Getting just a few minutes of exercise at a time should be easy enough for most people — it may mean walking more briskly to get a mid-day cup of coffee or being a little more intentional about physical activity.

Adding a few more minutes of physical activity into your day is simple:

  • Take a short break every hour at work to walk around your office
  • Park farther from the entrance when you go grocery shopping or run errands
  • Have a “walking meeting” with colleagues instead of sitting in a conference room
  • Carve out part of your lunch break to take a short walk

As you get used to short spurts of exercise, you might feel comfortable enough to spend more and more time working out. As time goes by, you might start taking longer brisk walks or even going for a short bike ride, both of which can help you improve your health.

Personally, I get plenty of short burst exercising running up and down the stairs at home looking for my keys, or cell phone, or ID badge etc., etc., etc …

And there’s nothing like chasing a 2 1/2-year-old banshee around to work up your heart rate.

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By Alfred Casale

To Your Health

Dr. Alfred Casale, a cardiothoracic surgeon, is Associate Chief Medical Officer for Geisinger Health and Chair of the Geisinger Cardiac Institute. Readers may write to him via [email protected]

Dr. Alfred Casale, a cardiothoracic surgeon, is Associate Chief Medical Officer for Geisinger Health and Chair of the Geisinger Cardiac Institute. Readers may write to him via [email protected]