Saturday, September 23, 2006

How much exercise is enough?

When the conversation turns to exercise, people quite often say, and the depth in their meaning is not in the words but the plaintive way they are spoken, the meaning behind the words as it were: “I know I should walk for at least half-an-hour a day, but I just can’t, so…….” they shrug in a confused and disheartened sort of way.

So? If you can’t manage thirty minutes a day (which is about 1.5 miles at a reasonable pace) straight out of the starting gate, you don’t bother to show up for the race? Is it a matter of instant gratification, being at the top of your game straight off? Or, do you think it is a waste of time to start small and work your way up to a length or level of exercise that you believe will really make a difference? If so, prepare to be surprised.

A study was conducted recently among people who were diagnosed as having pre-hypertension which is defined as a systolic blood pressure between 120 and 139, and a diastolic blood pressure of 80 to 89. These people are usually instructed to engage in moderately intense exercise for thirty minutes, several days per week. In the study, they took their exercise by walking on a treadmill.

Here is the surprise: the participants who engaged in four ten-minute walking sessions on the treadmill fared far better than the participants who engaged in one forty-minute walking session. It was concluded that the accumulated benefits of shorter exercise bursts over a longer period of time were more favorable than the immediate benefits from a single workout.

The group who worked out on the treadmill in forty-minute sessions once each day saw a reduction in both the systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels for about seven hours.

The group who worked out on the treadmill in short, ten-minute sessions four times a day saw their systolic pressure reduced for about eleven hours, and their diastolic pressure reduced for ten hours; that is, their blood pressures remained at lower, more natural and healthy readings for 63% (systolic) and 70% (diastolic) longer than the group that worked out for one forty-minute session.

To verify the results, a week later the groups were switched: the group that had worked out once a day for forty minutes started walking four times a day for ten minutes, and vice versa. The data examined after the switch proved that the accumulated benefit of several shorter workouts was more effective in lowering blood pressures over a longer period of time than one long workout.

Worrying about getting enough exercise can be just another source of stress! So……don’t worry or shrug or give-up if you can’t manage a thirty-minute walk every day; go for three or four ten-minute walks. It’s better for your blood pressure, anyway!

(Click here to read the abstract of this study conducted by Saejong Park, Lawrence D. Rink, and Janet P Wallace, and reported in the September 2006 issue of “Journal of Hypertension”)

I think there is an even larger lesson to be learned from this study: bigger, faster, or longer is not always better. Doctors have already applied this advice to eating habits, saying that eating four or even five small meals a day is healthier than eating two or three larger meals.

This lesson can be applied to stress management, too. Procrastination and worry over how to complete that “two-ton task” can cause a lot of stress, often in the form of sleepless nights spent tossing and turning and wondering how you were going to “get it done.” If you have been putting off a big project because you can’t complete it in one session, break the task up into smaller pieces and do them over a longer course of time. This may be advantageous in the long run; you can assess the project and the progress of the task, and make enhancing modifications you might not have noticed if you had just plowed through and finished the project in one fell-swoop.

Combine your planning with your walking: walk for five or ten minutes during your breaks or lunch hour and let your mind wander. You will be surprised at how often you will come up with the solution to a problem this way.

Happy walking!


Walking Cloud said...

Thanks for sharing that information from the Dao and the Tao about water.

Lets all send our loving thoughts to the water for all it does for us.

Michelle said...

Hi Walking Cloud,

Thanks for visiting, and for your comment.

An interesting thing about water symbolism is that it is virtually the same for every culture around the world, so we can all flow together in our appreciation.

Geraldine said...

This is very interesting! Too many days, I think, NO time for exercise, but broken up into 10 minute intervals, no sweat LOL....Thanks Michelle.

PS These could be computer breaks, right!!! Two for one.

Michelle said...

Hi G,
That's the beauty of it...too many people don't bother to exercise because they can't fit a 40-minute session into their day but think that anything less than a 40-minute workout will be a waste of their time.

I'm delighted that exactly the opposite is true, and that a ten-minute walking break every hour or hour and a half is extremely beneficial!

Yes, definitely two-for-ones. :-)

Anonymous said...

I can certainly relate to the results of this study on a personal level.

Getting out and taking a couple ten minutes walks in the morning and the evening do wonders for my frame of mind and my body, but trying to go really hard on any particular day - especially if I've been inactive, just leaves me feeling tired, sore, and interested in one thing only: a nap.

Michelle said...


That's great. I'm glad to know someone else who has found this way to be the right way for them. Moderation in all things...even exercise. :-)

G said...

Hi Michelle, I just posted about this on Veggies...couldn't figure out how to permalink to the post, so just linked to your blog.

Hope you enjoy the Veggie post too!

Huggs, G

Michelle said...

Hi G,

Cool! And, Thanks! I'll check out Veggies though I'm sure I'll enjoy what you said. :-)

caroline said...

Hi Michelle. Thanks for the reassurance. I've been so busy these last few weeks that it's not possible to exercise much. But I still have been managing to take shorter walks. This makes me feel a little bit better!

Michelle said...

Hi Caroline,

That's great...glad to hear it! It's so much easier to find time for short walks, too.

G said...

I have incorporated this exercise plan into my days now (especially when I am working at home) its working like a charm!!! I plan to bump up the time, just a bit, to 15 minute sessions, and try for 2 or 3 a day.

Thanks again, G

Michelle said...

Hi G,

That's great...I'm glad it's working for you!