Although, they might not get your heart pumping, Australian research suggests that small movements like loading a dishwasher or getting up to answer the phone are still important because they all count towards lowering your risk of chronic disease.
We all know that a 30 minute walk on most days of the week helps prevent heart disease and diabetes. But there’s also evidence that clocking up as many small movements as possible throughout the day may be as important to your health as having a regular date with exercise.
Small movements break up the long periods of sitting that are now a common part of modern living. Besides sitting down to eat meals and watch TV, many of us are sitting down for seven hours or more a day at work. We’re also sitting to get to and from work, either behind the wheel of our cars or on public transport. Add on the time spent sitting in the car to get to a shopping centre or drop off your kids, and it’s not hard to see that we may be spending most of our waking hours sitting.
The trouble with sedentary living isn’t just that we burn fewer kilojoules. It seems there may also be something about this prolonged inactivity itself that’s doing us harm. For instance, the Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute has found that the workers who stood up more often to answer the phone or get a cup of coffee had healthier levels of blood sugar and blood fats than the more prolonged sitters.
One theory of why this might occur is that even small movements make you contract your muscles and muscles use up blood sugar for fuel. But just sitting there means you’re barely moving a muscle — and not using up blood sugar.
Sweating the small stuff may also help keep your weight down. When Mayo Clinic researchers in the US compared the movements of lean people with those of overweight people, they found an interesting difference. Leaner people spent around two hours a day on small movements like getting up and down, pacing, and generally fidgeting. The research found that these small movements alone could help burn up an extra 1,400 kilojoules a day.
As well as regular exercise, you can add more movement to your day by:
These might be small movements but if you do a few of them every day they add up to help you be more active in your everyday life.
Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing: An active way to better health www.health.gov.au
Healy G Wijndaele K Dunstan DW et al. Objectively measured sedentary time, physical activity, and metabolic risk: The Australian diabetes, obesity and lifestyle study (AusDiab). Diabetes Care. 2008; 31(2): 369–371.
Levine JA Lanningham-Foster LM McCrady SK et al. Interindividual Variation in Posture Allocation: Possible Role in Human Obesity. Science. 2005; 307(5709): 584–586.
Mayo Clinic. Barriers to fitness: Overcoming common problems. [online] Mayo Foundation for Medical Research and Education. c1998-2010 [last updated 21 Feb 2009, accessed 16 Aug 2010] Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fitness/SM00085_DTop of page
This information has been developed and reviewed for Bupa by health professionals. To the best of their knowledge it is current and based on reputable sources of medical research. It should be used as a guide only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical or other health professional advice.
Bupa Australia Pty Ltd makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. Bupa Australia is not liable for any loss or damage you suffer arising out of the use of or reliance on the information. Except that which cannot be excluded by law. We recommend that you consult your doctor or other qualified health professional if you have questions or concerns about your health. For more details on how we produce our health content, visit the About our health information page.
Last published 31 October 2010