Men Today

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Stay fit without visiting the gym

Many people equate being in good physical shape with spending hours lifting weights or working out on the elliptical trainer at their neighborhood gym. For those who dread the gym as much as the dentist's office, research from Oregon State University might put a smile on your face.

Although gym workouts provide a measurable benefit for people looking to shed pounds and sculpt their bodies, everyday activities can be just as beneficial. Researchers looked at a federal survey of more than 6,000 American adults to gauge physical activity levels. Participants wore accelerometers 10 hours per day to track movement and physical activity during the day. Some participants did traditional gym workouts while others just remained active during their normal activities, such as chores and running errands. After four days, the results showed that small bursts of activity, such as errands or chores, were just as beneficial as longer sessions of gym-based exercise.

Brad Cardinal, Ph.D., one of the study's co-authors, explains that people can benefit from an active lifestyle just as much as they would from structured exercise, such as an hour at the gym, going for a run or following a workout video. Cardinal found benefits in blood pressure, cholesterol levels, glucose levels, and waist circumference were comparable between the two participant groups. The only variable that favored the structured exercise group was body mass index, or BMI. Those who did traditional exercises had a lower BMI.

What the research indicates is that the recommended 30 minutes of exercise per day does not have to be done all at once or in a traditional setting. An active lifestyle that enables a person to get 30 minutes of activity in one- or two-minute increments is just as effective. And this method of exercise has more staying power. That's because researchers found those who got their exercise in small increments were more likely to meet the 30-minutes-per-day guideline (43 percent) than those hitting the gym (10 percent). That might be because many people perceive exercise as a chore. But that stigma disappears when exercise is incorporated into daily activity throughout the day.

In order to incorporate more activity in a day without doing a structured workout, consider these easy tips.

* Take the stairs instead of an elevator or escalator.

* Walk into a restaurant to order take-out food instead of going through the drive-through or having it delivered.

* Park in a distant corner of a parking lot to force yourself to walk further.

* Take frequent breaks at work and visit the water cooler.

* Manually rake leaves, trim shrubs and plant flowers instead of relying on power tools.

* Play a game of catch or tag with the kids.

* Do arm circles or leg lifts while waiting for food to heat up in the microwave.

* Thoroughly vacuum the entire house and burn a few hundred calories in the process.

* Put a small cycling pedal set under your desk and travel a few miles all the while getting work done.

There are a number of ways to remain active during the day and reap the same benefits you might get from a structured workout.