Fitness Fidgeting in the Office Actually Works

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Fitness Fidgeting You may laugh at people who expend nervous energy at the office -- tapping their feet, finding any excuse to walk to the copier or the mail room, even standing up and pacing while they're on the phone. According to recent Canadian research, those "fidgeters" will have the last laugh -- those seemingly small expenditures of energy actually have an effect on cardiorespiratory fitness.

These tiny energy bursts are called "incidental physical activities (IPAs)" and researchers have found that both the duration and intensity of the activity are associated with cardiorespiratory fitness. The great part is that they can have a cumulative effect: A 30-minute increase in moderate physical activity throughout the day seems to offer significant benefits for fitness and long-term health.

"It's encouraging to know that if we just increase our incidental activity slightly -- a little bit more work around the house, or walking down the hall to speak with a co-worker as opposed to sending an email -- we can really benefit our health in the long-term," says Ashlee McGuire, the study's lead researcher and a graduate student in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies. "Best of all, these activities don't take up a lot of time, they're not difficult to do, and you don't have to go to a gym."

Apparently, this is good news for Canadians. McGuire reports that a large proportion of the Canadian population doesn't participate in a more structured, higher intensity exercise regime. McGuire and Dr. Robert Ross, a professor in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, conducted the study to find out whether the time and intensity of incidental physical activity had any impact at all on cardiorespiratory fitness.

They decided to study people who didn't meet Canada's physical activity guidelines and were engaging solely in incidental physical activity. The researchers gauged the participants' activity levels using an accelerometer, which measures the duration and intensity of movement. Participants wore the accelerometer for a week and also took part in a test to measure their cardiorespiratory fitness.

Who knew that so little effort could promote so much health? But before you let your gym membership lapse, remember that this is just one study, and it indicates that if you want to increase your cardioresperatory fitness, you have to increase your activity level to least as much as 30 minutes each day. One more trip to the vending machine is not going to cut it.


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