A new study suggests consistent activity throughout people’s days might be more effective than scheduled workout sessions.
Staying active is important for people of all ages, but new research sheds some light on the most effective way for older adults to get and stay fit. Researchers found that those who are active throughout their days experience greater benefits than those who stick to scheduled workouts. This approach of daily activity was more beneficial than daily visits to the gym.
The study, published in the journal Obesity, followed older adults (ages 65-86) who were already losing weight, with researchers finding that those who stayed active through their days were ultimately more fit. People who engaged in structured activities tended to work out and then avoid activity, a phenomenon known as “substitution.” This phenomenon refers to doing physical activity and then compensating in a negative direction.
In an interview with Healthline, researchers recommended that people shift their approach to exercise and workouts for something that’s more organic and healthier.
“First, We need to tone down the idea that if it doesn’t hurt or require a gym membership, it doesn’t help,” said Dr. Jason Fanning, one of the lead authors of the study. Finding activities that people enjoy and that require them to move around can be very helpful for staying active and slowly changing people’s lifestyles.
Older adults should aim for completing 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic movement throughout their days. Some activities to consider are walks with friends, walking pets, mowing the lawn and gardening, or going on bicycle rides. Probably a mix of some of these in order to fulfill the necessary time.
To avoid feeling overwhelmed, researchers suggest “activity snacking,” a practice that encourages short bursts of activity throughout the day, that way people have a more manageable time getting their minutes in. Stretching, taking walking breaks, going up and down the stairs, walking to and from places, is a good place to start.
While this study’s results are limited to older adults, it’s safe to assume that a more active lifestyle that isn’t limited by one-hour scheduled workouts is a healthy approach for the majority of people. Aside from keeping them more active, it’s also effective in changing people’s relationship to fitness, viewing it as a part of a healthier and fuller life.