So much of what you hear – especially as you age and go through the menopausal transition – is that you need to remain active. If you’re like me, you immediately think of exercise (i.e., go to the gym), but there’s another component that doesn’t get as much attention. Think gardening, housework, etc., which is known as non-exercise physical activity.
A longitudinal study out of the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences focused on the importance of this type of activity in preventing cardiovascular disease and death. This study involved 4,232 individuals who were 60 years of age and older. The researchers assessed the participants’ non-exercise physical activity (which also includes activities such as home repairs, lawn care, car maintenance, hunting or fishing) as well as their exercise habits at the start of the study. The individuals also had physical examinations and laboratory tests at this time to gauge their cardiovascular health. The researchers followed these participants for an average of 12.5 years in order to look at the rates of diagnosis of cardiovascular disease as well as death.
At the start of the study, the researchers’ analysis found that high levels of non-exercise physical activity was associated with more preferable waist circumferences, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL cholesterol, which is the “good kind”) and triglycerides in women. Furthermore, these participants – whether they exercised regularly or not -- were less likely to have metabolic syndrome.
By the time the study ended, 500 participants had experienced a heart attack or stroke for the first time. Additionally, 400 participants had died from some cause. A high level of non-exercise physical activity also was associated with a lower risk of a first event of cardiovascular disease. In fact, the researchers found that for every 100 participants with low non-exercise levels who had a heart attack or stroke, only 73 participants rated as having high daily non-exercise levels experienced these kinds of cardiovascular incidents. Furthermore, participants who were the most active had a lower risk of death due to any cause. The researchers’ analysis found that whereas 100 people who were the least active died during the study, only 70 of the participants who were the most physically active died.
If that’s not enough another study out of the American Association for Cancer Research suggests that being sedentary is linked to colon cancer, which typically is diagnosed in people who are over the age of 50. This study involved 1,700 individuals who had precancerous colorectal polyps. The researchers found that people who sat for more than 11 hours a day were 45 percent more likely to have these polyps return. Furthermore, participants who were already sedentary who then started a regular exercise program didn’t see the same sort of anti-cancer benefit as participants who had high levels of non-exercise physical activity. A third study found that older individuals who participated in non-sedentary hobbies such as gardening resulted in having at least 12 additional years in their lifespan.
Researchers suggest that you should move your body at least every 10-12 minutes. So what are some ways that you can increase your activity level? ChooseMyPlate.gov, which is a service of the United States Department of Agriculture, states, “Make sure to do at least 10 minutes of activity at a time, shorter bursts of activity will not have the same health benefits. For example, walking the dog for 10 minutes before and after work or adding a 10 minute walk at lunchtime can add to your weekly goal.” Here are some recommendations of other activities that you may want to adopt:
- Walk the dog.
- Clean the house.
- Wash the car.
- Mow the lawn with a push mower.
- Plant and care for a vegetable or flower garden.
- Take a nature walk.
- Replace a coffee break with a brisk 10-minute walk.
- Get off the bus or subway one stop early, then walk the rest of the way to your destination.
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
ChooseMyPlate.gov. (nd). Tips for increasing physical activity. U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Dador, D. (2013). Non-exercise physical activity helps fight cancer? KABC-TV.
Doyle, K. (2013). Staying active all day linked to healthy aging. MedlinePlus.
Ekblom-Bak, E., et al. (2013). The importance of non-exercise physical activity for cardiovascular health and longevity. British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Published On: December 02, 2013