Has this ever happened to you? You start a new fitness regime, vowing to wake up at 6 am three days a week, combine weight training and cardio sessions, track your calorie intake and quit booze and eat clean for 12 weeks.
Then during week 2 you hit snooze on your alarm, only make it to the gym twice that week, and somehow find yourself eating a doughnut on your coffee break almost without noticing.
Then you think to yourself, fuck it! Since you’re behind this week you’ll start again next week… or the week after… forget it there’s no point.
Been there, done that, haven’t we all? When it comes to fitness and getting in shape, it can feel like an “all or nothing” activity. You’re either eating clean and crushing it at the gym, or you’re a sofa slob and should give up.
Every little helps
A study published in 2018 in the Journal of the American Heart Association revealed once and for all that the life-extending benefits of physical activity are present whether you’re a regular at your local CrossFit or you just opt for the stairs once in a while.
Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey was analysed by the authors to reveal that – rather dramatically – those who did 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a day were less likely to die than those who got none by approximately one-third. Those who did 60 minutes a day were more than half as likely to die, and those that got 100 minutes or more were about 80% less likely to die than non-exercisers.
Dramatic and foreboding as that may seem, it shows just how drastically your life can be extended by simply walking briskly for 30 minutes a day.
“For about 30 years, guidelines have suggested that moderate-to-vigorous activity could provide health benefits, but only if you sustained the activity for 10 minutes or more,” said senior study author, William E. Kraus, a professor at the Duke University School of Medicine, in a statement. “That flies in the face of public health recommendations, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and parking farther from your destination. Those don’t take 10 minutes, so why were they recommended?”
There have been numerous studies and reports claiming similar results in the past, however, where this study adds weight to the findings is the use of accelerometers.
Participants wore these fitness trackers in order to accurately record how much exercise they were receiving, as opposed to relying on self-reporting which can be wildly inaccurate.
Many of those taking part only managed to perform 10 minutes of exercise at a time, which would make accurate activity tracking very difficult without a fitness tracker of some kind. (So grab yourself a Fitbit or something and leave it on to keep an eye on your daily activity).
“This finding can inform future physical activity guidelines and guide clinical practice when advising individuals about the benefits of physical activity,” they wrote. “This flexibility may be particularly valuable for individuals who are among the least active and likely at greater risk for developing chronic conditions.”
You’re doing great!
If you’re managing to stay active for at least 30 minutes of your day, then congratulations! You’re doing a great job and your body will thank you by living longer. So if you miss the gym once this week, don’t beat yourself up. Just do what you can and you’re already winning!