Whether your goal is to lose weight or feel better, getting exercise every day is a great start. You might be surprised, though, that just doing exercise might not increase the total amount of physical activity you get. Why? And what can you do to improve your daily physical activity?
A new study looks at adults’ daily physical activity
A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine followed over 1000 adults in their middle and older ages. Each person in the study completed detailed surveys examining what they did every minute of the day. The researchers asked about exercise, chores, regular activities like shopping and many more routine aspects of their lives. The subjects completed these surveys every other month for a year.
The results of their daily physical activity were discouraging
It turns out that roughly two-thirds of the people in the study routinely did some kind of exercise for about an hour each day. The exercise could occasionally be considered moderately or vigorously intense.
Unfortunately, most of the subjects averaged 9 or 10 hours of sitting per day.
Total calories burned and daily physical activity
What is perhaps more surprising than the amount of sedentary time or percentage of adults who exercised was the result that the exercise had on overall physical activity. Among the participants who exercised, the total number of calories they burned was barely higher than if they hadn’t exercised.
It turns out that when people, generally and the subjects in this study, exercise, they don’t create that time by cutting down on the most common activity done while sitting, watch TV. Instead, they stopped doing simple tasks that did require some physical activity, like walking, shopping and other chores that required them to burn energy.
Whether the exercise killed their motivation to do anything else that was physical was hard to determine, but they didn’t really increase their overall daily physical activity more than if they didn’t exercise at all.
Take home points about exercise and physical activity
The simple truth is that more people need to exercise, and it’s true for people of all ages. Two-thirds of the participants in this study exercised some, but that percentage isn’t high enough. And the ones that did exercise likely still didn’t exercise hard or long enough to meet the Physical Activity Guidelines.
We also need to spend less time sitting. Clearly we can cut down on the amount of TV we watch. But we spend so much time sitting at work, driving in the car and more. We need to find time to cut down our sedentary behavior and add in more physical activity.
Finally, we can’t use the fact that we went to the gym or went for a run as an excuse to be lazy the rest of the day. Exercise needs to inspire us to do more, not less, physical activity.
Use of Time and Energy on Exercise, Prolonged TV Viewing, and Work Days. Charles E. Matthews, Sarah Kozey Keadle, PhD, Pedro F. Saint-Maurice, PhD, Steven C. Moore, PhD, Erik A. Willis, PhD, Joshua N. Sampson, PhD, David Berrigan, PhD. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Volume 55, Issue 3. September 2018. Pages e61–e69.