Short Bursts of Activity Add Up

The first work/school week of 2021 is underway and whether older adults are retired, employed, or helping care for grandchildren, there is a welcome sense of structure gradually returning to daily life.  Although many people have gained a little weight over the holidays and the pandemic, small changes throughout the day can help seniors stay strong and healthy this winter.  

While it may seem daunting to commit to an hour-long walk every day or a Zoom pilates class each morning, taking several small exercise breaks throughout the day can over time improve cardiovascular health and help control blood sugar in people with insulin resistance.  According to a recent study, published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, short bouts of vigorous activity such as climbing 3 flights of stairs, 3 times a day, improved fitness among sedentary adults.  

Short bursts of weight-bearing activity can also improve muscle strength, which begins to decline in middle age and more sharply among adults over the age of 60.  However, with regular aerobic and resistance training, older adults can preserve muscle mass and cardiovascular health, helping to reduce the risk for falls leading to injury while preserving physical function.  A healthy diet, along with exercise can also lower the risk for type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and osteoporosis. 

If you are working from home or find yourself being more sedentary over the winter months, building short bursts of exercise into your daily routine has been found to be beneficial.  After an episode of your latest Netflix binge, trying hopping on the stationary bike for a few minutes or taking your phone calls while doing some wall-sits or lunges.  If walking becomes hazardous due to ice and snow; some Nordic walking poles and winter traction devices or snowshoes may be helpful in order to stay active and safe. 

Research tells us that even very short bursts of vigorous exercise; jumping jacks, running in place, pedaling a bike, or climbing the stairs as fast as is safely possible, can have a significant impact on the health and fitness of average adults.  So even if you don’t commit to lofty exercise goals this new year, small changes in daily routine can add up to greater enjoyment and well-being.