Modest Activity IS Better Than None

Modest Activity IS Better Than None

A study conducted at Queen’s University in Kingston equipped 135 obese, inactive volunteers with small, hip-mounted accelerometers around the clock for a week. The less active one third of the group recorded just six minutes of moderate activity throughout each day. A middle third recorded an average of 17 minutes. The most active third accumulated a total of 34 minutes per day of moderate activity.

When researchers analyzed the activity patterns, adding up the total amount of sporadic “light” and “moderate” movements in one-minute sections, they found that the most-active group was significantly fitter than the least active group, by an amount corresponding to a 13-per-cent reduction in risk of death from all causes and a 15-per-cent reduction in risk of heart disease. This was despite the fact that none of the subjects did any “exercise” that met a “customary” 10-minute minimum threshold. That threshold had been the position of the American College of Sports Medicine’s 1998 official position.

Last month, a panel released an updated ACSM position to replace the 1998 document. Their discussion of the minimum threshold reflects a more nuanced understanding of the needs of different people:

“Durations of exercise [less than] 10 minutes may result in fitness and health benefits, particularly in sedentary individuals,” they wrote. “However, the data are sparse and inconclusive.”

While this study seemed to confirm that position, the researchers point out that even the most active subjects in this study were still obese and at an elevated risk of a wide variety of health problems. And, that while accumulating two minutes of physical activity here and three minutes there can make a real difference to their health, this modest level of activity is not as beneficial as hitting the standard recommendation of 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week.A study conducted at Queen’s University in Kingston equipped 135 obese, inactive volunteers with small, hip-mounted accelerometers around the clock for a week. The less active one third of the group recorded just six minutes of moderate activity throughout each day. A middle third recorded an average of 17 minutes. The most active third accumulated a total of 34 minutes per day of moderate activity.

When researchers analyzed the activity patterns, adding up the total amount of sporadic “light” and “moderate” movements in one-minute sections, they found that the most-active group was significantly fitter than the least active group, by an amount corresponding to a 13-per-cent reduction in risk of death from all causes and a 15-per-cent reduction in risk of heart disease. This was despite the fact that none of the subjects did any “exercise” that met a “customary” 10-minute minimum threshold. That threshold had been the position of the American College of Sports Medicine’s 1998 official position.

Last month, a panel released an updated ACSM position to replace the 1998 document. Their discussion of the minimum threshold reflects a more nuanced understanding of the needs of different people:

“Durations of exercise [less than] 10 minutes may result in fitness and health benefits, particularly in sedentary individuals,” they wrote. “However, the data are sparse and inconclusive.”

While this study seemed to confirm that position, the researchers point out that even the most active subjects in this study were still obese and at an elevated risk of a wide variety of health problems. And, that while accumulating two minutes of physical activity here and three minutes there can make a real difference to their health, this modest level of activity is not as beneficial as hitting the standard recommendation of 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week.

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