"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Benefit from physical activity without breaking a sweat

July 14, 2023 – Since official recommendations on physical activity have been in place, the main focus of those recommendations has been on exertion.

Public health guidelines say it is best to get at the very least 150 minutes of “moderate to vigorous” physical activity per week. That will be anything from brisk walking (moderate) to mountain biking (vigorous).

But as broad as this spectrum is, many things are missed. Like washing dishes. Or changing a diaper. Or watching birds within the park. Or giving a PowerPoint presentation.

All of those tasks are “light” physical activities. We don't consider them as exercise, nor are they included in public health guidelines.

But at the very least one researcher believes we must always take them more seriously.

“Light physical activity appears to be the key to almost universal health success,” said Andrew Agbaje, MDa clinical epidemiologist on the University of Eastern Finland.

The high costs of downtime

Any parent, teacher or caregiver can let you know that children decelerate as they become old. A toddler who was bouncing off partitions at age 11 may barely move at age 24. But that's not necessarily their fault.

“We are more or less forcing them to sit,” says Agbaje, referring to things like school, homework and all other situations where children have to sit down still. In their free time, nevertheless, they're increasingly spending time in front of screens, which makes them sit even longer.

“We are playing with a time bomb,” said Agbaje.

In a recent study In a study of nearly 800 children, Agbaje measured how children's activity modified between the ages of 11 and 24.

The goal was to see how these changes would affect their C-reactive proteina key marker for systemic inflammationElevated levels of this protein will be an early warning signal for heart problems.

Several findings stand out:

  • The children's moderate to vigorous activity remained unchanged over time. At ages 11 and 24, it was about 60 minutes per day for boys and 45 minutes per day for women.
  • Light physical activity decreased by about 3.5 hours per day.
  • Sedentary activities – sitting, sleeping or otherwise not moving – increased by almost three hours per day.
  • C-reactive protein levels increased significantly between age 15, when it was first measured, and age 24. In men, levels almost doubled and in women, they tripled.

While physical inactivity was strongly related to increased C-reactive protein, activity of any intensity was related to lower levels of inflammation.

But there's an interesting twist here: the more body fat the participants had, the less effective physical activity was in fighting inflammation. Body fat reduced the advantages of moderate to vigorous activity by almost 80%.

This was not the case for Light physical activity. Body fat reduced the profit by only 30%.

“Light physical activity seems to be an unsung hero, which is surprising and new,” Agbaje said. “Perhaps we need to focus on that in this generation.”

The time-intensity continuum

Nevertheless, there are good reasons to recommend higher intensities in public health guidelines.

Let us take, for instance, a Study on Swedish conscripts who underwent a battery of fitness tests at age 18 within the early Seventies. Four many years later, those that were at their peak physical fitness of their late teens were 19% less more likely to have subclinical plaque levels, meaning that the plaque levels of their arteries were undetectable by typical medical tests.

Training capacityis, as you may suspect, the utmost sustained load that your muscles and cardiovascular system can withstand. Higher performance is generally the results of more intense exercise.

“The relationship between physical activity and training capacity is bidirectional and dynamic,” said the study writer Melony Fortuin-de Smidt, PhDa postdoctoral fellow at Umea University in Sweden.

In other words, what you'll be able to do now reflects what you might have done prior to now, and what you do now affects what you'll be able to do in the long run – for higher or for worse.

That's to not say you'll be able to't get the identical advantages from lower-intensity activities. But there's a catch: “You have to do more,” says Fortuin-de Smidt.

In one other Recent studyFortuin-de Smidt and her co-authors calculated that one would should walk for 60 minutes at a “normal” pace to scale back the danger of heart problems as much as 40 minutes of brisk walking.

However, these figures needs to be “interpreted with caution” as they're based on information provided by those affected, she said.

A Study 2019 The study, which used data from activity trackers, got here to completely different estimates: To achieve the best possible protection against the danger of early death, 24 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity or greater than 6 hours of sunshine activity per day are needed – “15 times longer to achieve the same mortality benefits,” says Fortuin-de Smidt.

Notably, this study includes an intermediate category that the authors call “high” light physical activity. This could include low-intensity yoga or exercise, cooking or cleansing, and shopping or gardening. You would only need 75 minutes a day of those activities to get the identical health advantages as 24 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity.

It's price noting that any of those activities may also be normally light and even moderate to intense, depending on how briskly or slow you do them. Intensity will not be concerning the variety of activity, but the hassle you place into it.

When light creates justice

The message here will not be to forcefully categorize every movement into vigorous, moderate, “strong” light, or normal light. Most of our activities probably involve a mix of those two aspects.

The goal is to take more steps.

“Every movement and every step contributes to better health,” said Fortuin-de Smidt.

Agbaje compares exercise to medicine. Each of us must adapt the dose of exercise to our needs, goals and talents.

A troublesome workout for a mean adult could also be considered a warm-up for a well-trained athlete, while the athlete's warm-up could also be dangerous for somebody who will not be prepared for it.

This is the most effective argument for moving more each time possible, even when it doesn't feel like exercise, says Agbaje.

“Light physical activity is safe for everyone,” he said. “Just go for a walk.”