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Taking the Stairs May Be Better for Your Health than Hitting the Gym

Update Date: Jan 29, 2013 11:04 AM EST

Between the office, the commute, the Internet and the television, it is no surprise that our lives are more sedentary than ever before. Though we all know that we should be physically active, it is often difficult to squeeze in the time for a workout. Even for people who are able to work in their time at the gym regularly, new research indicates that sitting for the rest of the day can undo some of the health benefits obtained at the gym. However, a new study conducted by researchers at Oregon State University have found that simple tricks - like taking the stairs or raking leaves - may prove to be even more effective for maintaining health than going to the gym.

American physical activity guidelines suggest that people receive at least 30 minutes of exercise in order to maintain their health. For people who go to the gym and attempt to knock out those 30 minutes in a single bout, only 10 percent are successful at meeting physical activity guidelines. However, for individuals who exercise in one- to two-minute increments, that number jumps to 43 percent.

"You hear that less than 10 percent of Americans exercise and it gives the perception that people are lazy," study co-author and professor of exercise and sports science Brad Cardinal said in a statement. "Our research shows that more than 40 percent of adults achieved the exercise guidelines, by making movement a way of life...People get it in their minds, if I don't get that 30 minutes, I might as well not exercise at all. Our results really challenge that perception and give people meaningful, realistic options for meeting the physical activity guidelines."

The study was conducted with 6,000 Americans who wore accelerometers, which measured physical activity. Half the group was put in the long-bout group, which meant that their exercises needed to last at minimum of 10 minutes. The other group, the short-bout group, was tasked with exercises that could last 10 minutes or fewer, but even as little as one to two minutes of movement at a time. The study found that the "short bout" group had positive results in areas like blood pressure, cholesterol, waist circumference and even had less of a chance of suffering from metabolic syndrome than the "long bout" group.

However, the short bout group was outmatched by the long bout group in one category: body mass index, though researchers insist that short bouts of exercise may still be useful for weight loss because the groups were equal in reduction of waist circumference.

The researchers suggest making changes like performing sit-ups, push ups or jumping jacks during television commercial breaks, or walking or biking a half-mile instead of driving.

The study was published in the American Journal of Health Promotion.

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