Just a Short Workout Can Reap Health Benefits

By Dan Peterson, TeamSnap's Sports Science Expert


Time to add up your moderate-intensity aerobic activity over the last week. As a parent, the U.S. CDC recommends you get 2 ½ hours of heart pumping movement while your kids need 420 minutes of running around every week. While for adults that’s only a little over 20 minutes per day, 35% of us don’t move much at all. Two studies suggest that for those of us who are completely inactive may need to measure progress in smaller steps.

In their recommendations, the CDC does give adults a few options that combine both the intensity of aerobic workouts with muscle strengthening activities. Don’t have 150 minutes in a week for moderate movement? Then do 75 minutes of vigorous work like running or playing basketball or tennis. Even 10 minutes of movement counts to your weekly goal.

Starting an exercise routine habit while young is important. As we age, we spend a lot more time on the couch, from 55% (7.7 waking hours per day) in our twenties to almost 10 hours per day, 67%, in our seventies.

But, according to Philipe de Souto Barreto at the University Hospital of Toulouse, the key to improving health lies in the smallest of lifestyle changes. In his latest research in the British Medical Journal, he found that getting about an hour per week of moderate exercise reduced mortality risk by 15% in over 250,000 U.S. adults, aged 50-71. Across six other studies, he found that those adults that walk about an hour per week reduced their mortality by 19% compared to those that did no exercise at all.

Barreto believes we "should focus on people who are fully sedentary to make small incremental increases in physical activities in their daily life rather than reaching current recommendations."

In the same BMJ issue, Professor Phillip Sparling of Georgia Tech agreed with Barreto that just getting off the couch is a victory. Moving from sedentary to somewhat active can provide the long term health benefits that are the most important.

While the CDC guidelines offer the best opportunity for fitness, Sparling is concerned that "may mean that the benefits of lesser amounts of exercise are overlooked.” Starting small and making progress "may prove more realistic and pave the way to more intense exercise."

"We are not proposing that the 150 minute a week standard be abandoned," Sparling and his co-authors concluded. "Rather, our purpose is to remind colleagues that a broad perspective to counseling is already embedded in the guidelines and that a whole data approach for older sedentary patients may help them move towards the recommended activity levels."

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Dan Peterson is a recovering sports dad who is fascinated with sports science research, skill development and the athlete’s brain. He has written over 400 science-based articles across the Web and consults with parents, coaches and young players to help them understand the cognitive side of sports. You can visit him at Sports Are 80 Percent Mental and at @DanielPeterson.

Release Date: May 06 2016

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