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Q and A: Is Incidental Exercise Enough?

Posted Oct 22 2009 10:00pm

I have a question (shocker, right?). In my day-to-day life, I get a lot of exercise. I walk everywhere, so probably anywhere between an hour to three hours of walking most days, plus I serve three times a week (so I’m walking around, carrying heavy trays, etc.) and I stretch when I first get out of bed in the mornings, so I’m curious as to whether this all counts towards the exercise that professionals say you should be getting every day. I’m not trying to lose weight (actually right now I’m trying to gain weight) and I’m healthy (normal blood pressure, cholestrol, etc.) so if my day-to-day life gives me enough fitness should I still be heading to the gym?


Sadly, no, being active in your everyday life isn’t enough in terms of exercise.

People tend to get caught thinking about exercise as a way to burn calories- and if they are burning those calories through their everyday activity, which is entirely possible to do, that you don;t have to exercise. The truth is, exercise is vital for many different reasons, not just weight.

I myself got trapped in this way of thinking for a while. I used to wear a pedometer constantly to make sure I was walking enough. I would aim for 17,000 steps everyday, which is pretty high, but I would use that goal as a replacement for real cardio, thinking as long as it added up in the end, whats the difference?

There is a big difference. There are certain health benefits you can only get from exercise, which is why its can’t be skipped.

Elevated Heart Rate:
Getting your heart rate up is probably the biggest reason to do traditional exercise. Getting your heart rate up will not only burn fat and calories, it increases oxygen production to your muscles and pumps blood through your arteries and veins. Why is this important? It increases your cardiovascular endurance, which trains your heart to beat stronger and last longer. Blood pumping hard through your veins breaks up cholesterol deposits, lowering your cholesterol and blood pressure- which is are huge risks for women. Heart disease is the number one killer of women, and cardiovascular exercise is the best way to prevent that. The harder you push your body, the better it rises to the challenge which it means it learns how to function with less effort- lowering your resting heart rate. The lower your resting heart, the longer it takes for your heart to eventually give out, adding years to your life.

Increased Bone Density:
Another huge issue for women is bone density. As we age, our bone density decreases, and the only way to not only hold off the loss, but to improve bone density is through strength training. Usually with our bodies, as in the case of muscles, the more strain you put on them, the more likely you will cause injury (muscle pull or tear.) Bones are special- they stick to the “form follows function” rule, which means the harder you are on them, the stronger they become. If you break a bone, it grows back stronger than before. You need to put pressure on your bones to ensure that they become stronger- either through weight training, or medium-high impact cardio. Of course, be careful as your joints don’t always like to keep up with your bones, but ask any doctor and the number one way to prevent bone loss and osteoporosis is through exercise.

Increased Muscle Size and Strength:
Some people are born thin, but no one is born muscular. Aside from giving you a killer frame, building muscle is very important to your health. Some people can develop muscle through incidental exercise, like people that haul heavy boxes all day, or do hard manual labor, but even then, they are not going to strengthen every muscle evenly. Muscle strength will not only prevent injury from day to day, it will also help improve your every day performance. The stronger you are, the easier every day tasks will be, and the more energy you will have.

Weight: There are certain added benefits exercise provides you when it comes to weight loss and keeping a healthy body fat percentage that just every day activity can’t provide. The more muscle you have on your body, and the harder you push your body through intense exercise, the higher your metabolism will become at rest. While indicental exercise will burn some calories, it will do very little to actually change the composition of your body, which will replace fat with muscle.

Long story short- yes, you need to exercise. There is no better way to prevent disease, prolong your life, and change your body composition for the better. Its about your health.

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