Walking the dog is as good as the gym!
– Dr. John Whitcomb, Aurora Sinai Wellness Institute
This is a treasure of a study. Repeated moderate exercise is as good as doing it all at once. This research study explains a lot and it gives us all lots of hope.
We all have an image in our minds that exercise means going to the gym. In addition to paying a monthly fee, you have to find some sort of Spandex you can squeeze yourself into. And then, you have to actually go. We know that walking 20 minutes every day will keep your brain healthy. The question remains, do I have to squirm into Spandex and go to the gym? Do I have to do it all at once? We all have excuses – the inconvenience of going somewhere to exercise is a high barrier.
Well, no more. Dr. Miyashita did a very interesting experiment. He recruited healthy young men with no illnesses and divided them into teams. The teams had a variety of exercise regimens. One was to do nothing at all, except read and watch TV. (That's us). The second was to walk on a flat treadmill for 30 minutes once a day. The final was to walk three (3) minutes, 10 times a day. The participants were not allowed to have any extra activity; they all ate a precisely similar breakfast and dinner. Dr. Miyashita carefully measured blood pressure the NEXT day, as well as the effect of the standard breakfast and dinner on body fats all day long the next day.
What he found is eye opening. It turns out that exercise in 10 bouts of three (3) minutes each was JUST AS GOOD as the 30-minute bout.
Dr. Miyashita was precise. Participants' blood pressures were measured all day – on average, they were 7 points lower for both exercise groups (i.e., dropping from 117 mm Hg to 110). Amazingly, both groups dropped just as much. He also measured the blood fats response to the standard breakfast and dinner and found no difference in the two exercise groups. Both groups were 16% lower than the couch potatoes. That means, the effect of exercise is to lower your blood pressure up to 24 hours afterwards.
This study was designed to be doable for anyone. It wasn't getting sweaty. It wasn't running until you're out of breath. It was just brisk walking, with the participants defining just what "brisk" was. That part was self-directed.
Did you get that? Three (3) minutes at a time, 10 times a day is just as good as going to the gym for controlling blood fats and blood pressure. Now, remember, that level isn't cardiovascular training. You can measure even more good stuff happening to you if you exercise to the point of being sweaty. But Dr. Miyashita's study builds on the NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) reporting. We know that NEAT activities (i.e., housekeeping, standing while talking on the phone instead of sitting, weeding the garden, standing to put away laundry versus sitting) will burn half the calories of rigorous gym activity.
WWW: What will work for me? Well, well. I'm good at working on a list of easy stuff. I can do three (3) minutes at a time. I can tuck it into a day's activity. No sweat. Then, all I have to do is build up three (3) minutes at a time until I'm at 30. It doesn't have to be one block all at once. It's good for my brain; it's good for my waist, and for my heart. Honey, I'll walk the dog...
Reference: Am J Clin Nut Nov 2008 Miyashita et al p 1225