Short bouts of exercise give long-term rewards

Can we live longer if we take regular play breaks instead of turning "working" out into a dreaded chore?

Photo courtesy of Flickr user _PaulS_.

There have been a lot of stories in the news recently about how just 15 minutes a day of exercise can increase life expectancy by three years.

The World Health Organization recommends a half hour per day of exercise, or 150 minutes a week. However, lots of people find it difficult to regularly carve out that amount of time in their schedules, so they skip it.

However, many exercise gurus maintain that regularity of exercise is more important than the duration. This is partly due to last bout effects -- in other words, the way you experience positive results like increased metabolism, more energy, or lowered blood pressure that show up when you get your heart pumping, and last for few hours after each session.

It's also partly due to the fact that exercise becomes less intimidating as good habits are formed and endurance is built up. You get to remember what exercise has done for your lately rather than harboring a vague sense of dread about a hump you manage to get over once in a while.

Therefore, I've long suspected that it really is better to do a small session or two of cardio exercise on a daily basis than it is to do a full half hour only a once or twice a week. A study published two days ago in a British medical journal called The Lancet seems to bear this idea out.

I am brainstorming on cool ways in which this principle can be applied. For example, a friend of mine was recently complaining that she often doesn't get around to exercising because she doesn't want to put on special fitness gear in order to get all sweaty, and then have to take a second shower after she's already taken one for the day.

But what if she just took a ten minute quickie walk? What if she just put the stereo on and danced for one song? What if she did this a couple of times a day, in whatever she happened to be wearing, to help her de-stress? She's always worrying that she's too cranky with her kids. Maybe she could involve them and they could all start looking forward to a little dance break to help them refocus for the next bout of homework or computer time. She could even grab her husband and do-si-do. It might be a memory they would cherish all their lives.

My husband has started lifting weights while waiting for his computer to reboot. He has to install something and restart every once in awhile, so instead of impatiently waiting for work to be able to resume, he bangs out a set of bicep curls or tricep extensions -- whichever one he didn't do last time.

Sure, I like the idea of adding three extra years to my life. But I really like the idea of finding creative ways to enjoy my daily life now, more and more, by taking regular play breaks and releasing the idea of turning "working" out into a big, dreaded chore.

What kind of ideas do you have for short bursts of exercise glee? Share in the TalkBacks below.


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