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The Real Value of Incidental Exercise

By Jennifer Gregory

We have all heard the advice to take the stairs and park at the end of the parking lot to add exercise into our day and help burn extra calories. But do these activities, often referred to as incidental exercise, really help people lose weight and increase overall fitness?

Todd Cambio, certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with the National Strength and Conditioning Association, says that the answer is absolutely yes. “All of these activities get you moving. The more you move, the more muscles that you gain and the more chance you have of burning fat,” says Cambio.

However, it is important not to rely on incidental exercise as your only form of physical activity and participate in a regular fitness routine.  “In addition to moving whenever possible, you need to also have a structured exercise program, such as playing a sport for fun or training with a professional,” says Cambio.

Take the Stairs Both Up and Down

One of the most beneficial things you can do is to take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible since stair-climbing is both strength training and cardio exercise.  “When you go up or down a flight of stairs, you engage your quadriceps quite a bit,” says Cambrio.

Increase Intensity of Regular Activities

During your regular daily activities, such as house cleaning (burn rate: up to 204 calories an hour) or gardening (burn rate: up to 272 calories per hour) try to move faster to burn more calories. Even playing tag for 15 minutes with your kids can use up to 90 calories.

Use Your Feet Instead of Wheels

Whenever you can, walk instead of riding in a car or taking a cab. If your destination is too far to walk, pull out your bike and pedal to where you are going. When you must take your car, park as far away from your destination as possible and keep a brisk pace as you walk through the parking lot.

Sneak in Strength Training

While the advice of walking around while on the phone is often heard, Cambrio takes it a step further and encourages his clients to do strength training, such as squats, while on the phone. Another good time to add in a few pushups (either against the wall or on the floor) while you are waiting for the shower to heat up.

The most important thing is to find small ways to modify your routine that work for you and to consistently add incidental exercise into your life. “There are many ways to get exercise in throughout the day. You just have to do it,” says Cambrio.

August 9th, 2011

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