Many people nowadays have a very sedentary lifestyle. Perhaps you take the car or bus to and from work, spend most of the working day sitting at a desk, and then in the evening end up on the couch at home in front of a TV series. This type of physical inactivity is far from healthy and can even have directly adverse health effects if it lasts for long periods. This article discusses the differences between everyday exercise and exercise itself as well as the effects of exercise and how much we need of it.
What is everyday exercise?
Exercise should be a natural part of our everyday lives and building this habit is necessary to ensure that our bodies function correctly and that we stay healthy. Everyday exercise such as regular walks, taking the bike to work, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, cleaning and the like, are health-promoting activities that can reduce the risk of developing various diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The next step up from everyday exercise is what is simply known as “exercise”. In order for physical activity to qualify as exercise, it should result in some sweating and shortness of breath. Activities such as longer bike rides or brisk walks fall into this category. The human body needs exercise and if we don’t engage in any physically straining activity for extended periods of time, this can adversely affect our health.
Anaerobic exercise is, just like aerobic exercise, a conscious physical activity, with the difference that the activity is goal-oriented and the focus is often on improving one’s performance in a certain sport or discipline. Anaerobic exercise is usually very strenuous, intense and challenging – you should reach about 70% of your maximum heart rate in order for exercise to count as anaerobic. Regular exercise goes a long way for improving your health. Anaerobic exercise can, however, also help you cope with more physically demanding situations and tasks and can also improve your quality of life.
Hard exercise is, however, not only beneficial, but can also have a degrading effect on the body. For example, after a really hard workout, your immune system can temporarily be weakened, which makes you more susceptible to infections. To avoid getting sick or injured from working out, it’s important that you combine your exercise with sufficient periods of rest/recovery and a nutritious and varied diet.
The effects of exercise
Everyday exercise, ie. simply being active during everyday life, reduces the risk of common lifestyle diseases such as dementia, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Combining this type of activity with regular aerobic exercise can give both your physical and mental health a real boost, and improves your ability to recover from illness or injury.
Exercising also lengthens the so-called telomeres (the outer part of our chromosomes), the length of which is often used as a measure of biological age. Perhaps this is linked to the fact that people who exercise regularly, on average, live 10 years longer than those who do not? It also does not seem to matter at what point in life you start exercising, and you can benefit from exercise regardless of your age.
How much exercise do we need?
In order to keep all its vital functions active the body requires some form of exercise approximately every 30 minutes. It may, however, be enough to get up, stretch the body and walk a few steps. If you have a sedentary job, you could, for example, switch between sitting, standing and walking. In addition to this, the body also requires more strenuous exercise for at least 30 minutes a day that results in shortness of breath and preferably some sweating. This does not, however, mean that you need to exercise for 30 minutes non-stop. You could instead exercise for 10 minutes at a time and, for example, take one walk in the morning, one at lunch and one in the afternoon/evening. And remember that more exercise provides more benefits – 30 minutes a day is the minimum we need to maintain a feeling of well-being.
More examples of everyday exercise
- As a rule, always take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
- Walk or cycle to work, school, the grocery store or other places you need to go. If the distance is too great or if you’re short on time, try to walk at least part of the distance.
- Do you get stuck at your desk for extended periods of time? Set an alarm for every 30 minutes that reminds you to stand up, walk a short distance, run an errand, or something similar. If you have an adjustable desk, you can alternate between standing and sitting.
- Combine exercising with socialising – take a walk with a friend, play with the kids in a park, or try a new sport.
- Take the opportunity to do gardening and housework such as mowing grass, raking leaves, clearing flower beds and cleaning – this also counts as everyday exercise!
- Start having walking meetings at work, and take all phone calls standing up.