Non-exercise Activity

The evidence that increased levels of cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality is well-known.  Simply put, what we commonly refer to as “being in shape” protects us independently of other risk factors such as being overweight.  It is also well-known that exercise is the primary determinant of CRF.  Current guidelines recommend at least thirty minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise on most days.

Among the general population, the concept of what constitutes exercise can vary greatly.  In a clinical setting, many people will consider their daily activity level as exercise without any specific exercise period during the day.  Others have a very sedentary lifestyle, possibly because of work requirements, even with a regular exercise period (see earlier post on “Active Couch Potato”).

A study in the November, 2011, issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, looked at the contribution of incidental physical activity (IPA), the non-exercise activity of everyday life, on CRF.  The study used accelerometers to measure physical activity over a seven day period in healthy, sedentary, overweight to obese, middle-aged men and women.  The physical activity was classified as low (LPA), moderate (MPA), or vigorous.  The amount of vigorous activity was negligible and all MPA was considered sporadic.  None of the participants accumulated enough physical activity to meet the guidelines.  CRF was measured as oxygen consumption during a maximal treadmill test.

The results indicated that LPA did not contribute significantly to CRF but that MPA did contribute to CRF.  This was true regardless of gender or body mass index.  The authors conclude that both intensity and duration of IPA contribute to CRF and that all physical activity probably brings some degree of health benefit.

Practical Health Strategies (, based in Pensacola, offers wellness programs throughout northern Florida, and southern Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi.  Practical Health Strategies develops Wellness Plans you can Live With!

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