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Sharp Health News

Could everyday activity help keep you fit?

Sept. 18, 2019

Incidental fitness

Whether it’s carrying heavy grocery bags up a flight of stairs, playing with your kids or putting more vigor in your household chores, everyday activities could be the key to including high-quality exercise in each day.

You’ve probably heard of the popular high-intensity interval training, but what about high-intensity incidental physical activity? Incidental exercise consists of different types of relatively intense physical exertions, which can occur randomly as a person goes through their day-to-day life.

According to a report published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the benefits of high-intensity incidental physical activity can have a similar impact to high-intensity interval training. Unstructured activities such as walking, household chores and climbing stairs can have the same health benefits.

These types of activities could be used in the same way that interval training works, by repeating short bursts of high-intensity exercise with rests in between. It all depends on what gets you “huffing and puffing” more, says the study.

The report confirms changes to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, moving away from previous guidelines saying that a single period of physical activity needed to be at least 10 minutes long to be beneficial to your health.

“Incorporating incidental exercise — just three to five sessions (totaling as little as five to 10 minutes a day) most days of the week — can improve overall health,” says Cliff Bardelli, an exercise specialist at the Sewall Healthy Living Center at Sharp Coronado Hospital. “It’s a style of exercise that can be achievable for most people.”

“People who are sedentary can ease into extra physical activity without having to be on a routine or signing up with a gym right away,” he says. “For those who are active, high-intensity incidental physical activity can complement their fitness goals by adding extra aerobic work sporadically throughout the day.”

Bardelli suggests taking the stairs whenever possible, parking farther away to get extra steps or taking up gardening at home.

The most common barriers to physical activity include lack of time, energy, ability or money, none of which are required by incidental activity.

“High-intensity incidental physical activity can benefit everyone,” says Bardelli. “If you’re considering getting more active, but you’re not sure where to start, incidental fitness might be perfect for you.”

The Sewall Healthy Living Center at Sharp Coronado Hospital offers monthly and annual memberships, group fitness classes and personal training. Learn more about Fitness Center offerings.

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