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Non Exercise Physical Activity: No I didn't make that up!

Posted May 20 2009 1:20pm
I always roll my eyes whenever a woman's magazine suggests to "take the stairs instead of the elevator" or "park farther away." If I have to be subjected to that sort of pithy and obtuse advice one more time I may very well gag.

And yet... (are you laughing at me Sara M? If you've read the "History of Love" this inside joke makes sense. If not I'll make this nonsense relevant later in the post). 

And yet... taking the stairs and walking a little farther than you need to have a real name and a real acronym: Non Exercise Physical Activity or NEPA (but if you Google it the first thing that comes up is "National Environmental Protection Agency" so scroll down before you give up).

When you talk about parking farther away from the door like that, giving it a scientific-sounding name and all... well, then it feels legitimate. I don't necessarily want to take the stairs but I do want to engage in a little NEPA.

I first learned about NEPA from a guest post on Workout Mommy. I know you might hate linking away to read it, but go... check it out. It's short. Go on. Just come back. The rest of my post will make more sense if you do. OK, good, let's go on.

The reason I liked this post is because postpartum I don't exercise as much as normal. But hey, sometimes this happens to all of us whether we have a baby or not. Sometimes something big comes along:  A move, a big project at work, an ailing family member and the ole regularly scheduled exercise program gets pushed to the side for awhile (and we know it's just for awhile because eventually we'll hop back on the train). The thing is, during these temporary lulls in my fitness I'm never sedentary. I know there are people out there who, when they stop a workout program, they truly stop all activity -- it's the "why bother" mentality -- but being active in little ways counts. 

So in that Workout Mommy post, Jason the trainer has some good suggestions and for some reason those suggestions were more palatable than when they're offered in a woman's magazine. I cleaned out my car the other day and as you know, with children, this is a full day's work. So is cleaning the house. (For Jason both of these tasks takes only an hour. Jason, apparently doesn't have children who color the sideboards of the car, eat fruit snacks, or eat lollipops halfway and leave the other half under the car seats). 

I have long maintained that cleaning house is exercise, but as I mention in that post, if your goal is to run a 10K, just cleaning house may not help you meet that goal. If you need to have movement in your day and don't have time for the gym? Cleaning house qualifies.

For you dear readers I just vacuumed the main living areas of my home--wearing a heart rate monitor. Since I was pleased with the results of my walking-with-HRM experiment, I thought I'd give this a whirl, too. I managed an average of 100 for 30 minutes of vacuuming, with a little sweeping, rug shaking, and table wiping mixed in. Not bad for "non exercise." Not as good as that brisk walk. But when it's all you got? I'd throw in some of those squat thrusts, lunges and push ups, too.

Point is all these little bouts of activity do add up. And this post says as much, siting a study that shows how NEPA isn't only good for your waistline, but your longevity, helping reduce mortality by some 40 percent. OK then. I'll take the stairs already.

I wonder what other heart rates we can get from NEPA? Anybody else don their heart rate monitor while "non exercising"? Would you be willing to share your heart rate on other activities like mowing the lawn, cleaning out the garage, or going to the grocery store with kids (this ensures a few sprints). If any of you have numbers to send my way I'll compile them and give everyone a full report.

Now, back to " The History of Love." Did I just hear someone mutter " finally" under their breath? The book is lovely and I highly recommend it. Clearly I enjoyed it so much I can't help but emulate the writing (this is different from plagiarism, right?) It's just since reading the book I can't keep myself from saying or writing "And yet." Who knew it was so relevant?

Anyway, when I started to type that second paragraph I couldn't remember the whole title of the book and began to look it up on Amazon so I wouldn't have to get my dainty arse out of my chair. And then the irony hit me. I decided to engage in a little NEPA and get up to go look for the book. Doing so helped me log two extra flights of stairs for the day.

As they say in the "Hokey Pokey" ... That's what it's all about!
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