(NaturalNews) Good news for busy people: you can get just as much health benefit from a series of disconnected bouts of exercise as short as a minute or two each as you can from a single 30-minute workout, according to a study conducted by researchers from Oregon State University and published in the American Journal of Health Promotion.
"Our results suggest that engaging in an active lifestyle approach, compared to a structured exercise approach, may be just as beneficial in improving various health outcomes," lead author Paul Loprinzi said.
"We encourage people to seek out opportunities to be active when the choice is available. For example, rather than sitting while talking on the phone, use this opportunity to get in some activity by pacing around while talking."
The study was conducted on a nationally representative sample of more than 6,000 U.S. adults, all of whom were assigned to wear accelerometers so that their daily activity patterns could be quantitatively measured. The researchers found that participants could be divided into those who were active in short bouts throughout the day - sometimes for as little as a minute or two at a time - and those who were active only in larger bouts, such as for a half-hour or more at a time.
Participants in the "short bouts" group, on average, had lower blood pressure, cholesterol, waist circumference, and rates of metabolic syndrome (a cluster of symptoms associated with the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes) than participants in the "long bouts" group.
There was no significant difference between the groups in body mass index, a ratio calculated based on height and weight. This may provide evidence that body size per se is not the most important measure in calculating overall health, researcher Brad Cardinal said.
"There are inherent limitations in BMI as a surrogate measure of fat and health in general," he said. "People can still be 'fit' and 'fat.'"
Short bouts lead to more activity overall
Notably, the researchers found that people who exercised in short bouts were significantly more likely to actually achieve the federal recommendation of 30 minutes of exercise per day than people who went only for "long bouts;" 43 percent of the short bout group met the goal, compared with fewer than 10 percent of the long bout group.
Rates of metabolic syndrome were equally low among all people who achieved the recommended 30 minutes, whether in long bouts or short.
"You hear that fewer than 10 percent of Americans exercise and it gives the perception that people are lazy," Cardinal said. "Our research shows that more than 40 percent of adults achieved the exercise guidelines, by making movement a way of life."
According to Cardinal, an "active lifestyle" model of exercise is simply more helpful than a workout-based model. It is not only easier to achieve, but easier to stick with as well.
"This is a more natural way to exercise, just to walk more and move around a bit more," he said. "We are designed by nature as beings who are supposed to move."