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The High Value of Low Intensity

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High-intensity interval training (or HIIT) has been making health headlines lately. For many in the medical community, it’s been unclear exactly what to make of programs that seem to have clear health benefits but some reports suggest that HIIT might leave participants prone to injury. While there are probably opportunities for exercise professionals to improve HIIT methods—maximizing returns while minimizing risks—the benefits of low-intensity exercise should not be forgotten.

Low-intensity exercise may be less glamorous than the loud tempo of rock music, slamming barbells, and a small army of athletes jumping on and off wooden boxes, but light activity matters for many reasons.

Researchers at the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University found that 300 minutes a week of light activity positively impacted health markers for individuals over the age of 65. They found that they were 18 percent healthier, overall, compared to their inactive peers. Their BMI was lower. Their waist circumference was smaller. Their insulin rates were better, and their likelihood of chronic diseases was lower.

In terms of the study, researchers classified activities like walking or household as low-intensity. Does this sound familiar? This is the NEAT system at work!

If you look at chapter 15 in Dr. A’s Habits of Health, you’ll see that a number of small daily choices can help you win the race in weight-loss and in creating lasting, vibrant health. Some ideas from the Habits of Health for incorporating low-intensity exercise into your daily life:

  • Think about maintaining strong posture.
  • Stand or walk when you take a phone call.
  • Do common household chores by hand (like washing dishes).
  • Dance to your favorite music.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

When it comes to Habits of Healthy Movement, all activity matters, not just what you do in the gym. Even though the authors of the previously cited study focused specifically on people over the age of 65, waiting until late in life to make light activity a part of your life is a missed opportunity for your health, your longevity, and your overall quality of life.

To reap the full benefits of the Habits of Healthy Movement, you should start as early in life as possible. Low-intensity exercise can benefit everyone. Our modern lifestyles are largely sedentary. We sit through long commutes so that we can spend a workday at a desk and come home to watch hours of television. We were built to move, and our health suffers when we don’t. We pack on the pounds, and it’s not long before the consequences of obesity and inactivity start to stack up.

Make the Habits of Healthy Motion a part of your life now and never give them up. The longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to unweave your Habits of Disease. The longer you wait, the longer you go without enjoying the rewards.

An important note: your regular exercise time still matters, so don’t give up your gym schedule. In the time before your next session, keep moving!

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