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Fidget your way to health!
Do you think you have to be a gym bunny or marathon runner to gain the health benefits of exercise? Wrong, says Dr Tracy Kolbe-Alexander, of UCT’s Sports Science Institute, speaking at a health symposium at Rhodes University in late August – you can increase wellness and fitness simply by ‘fidgeting’ more. Both literal fidgeting – swinging your foot to and fro or jiggling your knees as you sit at your desk – and occasional movement count towards your daily movement quotient, and help to increase muscle tone and your use of kilojoules.
They call this ‘non-exercise activity thermogenesis’ (NEAT), or ‘incidental physical activity’. “Researchers have found that both the duration and intensity of incidental physical activities (IPA) are associated with cardiorespiratory fitness. The intensity of the activity seems to be particularly important, with a cumulative 30-minute increase in moderate physical activity throughout the day offering significant benefits for fitness and long-term health,” reported ScienceDaily on 30 June 2011.
During National Physiotherapy BackWeek this year, from 9-15 September, the South African Society of Physiotherapy (SASP) is promoting movement for health – movement by everybody, whatever their age and state of health (even a patient who’s bedbound after an operation will benefit from pumping their calves and moving as much as possible).
“Do you have to be an athlete to be physically fit?” asks Dr Linda Steyn, president of the SASP. “That’s often what comes across in radio discussions and articles and health campaigns. But in fact, the research shows that anyone can start to get fit just by increasing their incidental physical activities by a little each day.” In fact, research has shown that those who do the requisite 30 minutes of intensive daily exercise at gym or on the road running and cycling do not reap as many benefits if they simply spend the rest of their day sitting down for long stretches at a desk, in a car or in front of the TV: “Research has already suggested that time spent sitting increases risk for heart disease, even if we exercise on a regular basis.” (CardioSmart, American College of Cardiology, 9 April 2013) And in fact, says Dr Steyn, “In patients with non-specific low back pain it’s often sustained sitting that aggravates their back pain, rather than actual physical activity.”
Some suggestions Dr Steyn offers to increase your incidental physical activity:
* When you get a phone call at the office, stand up while you talk – this adds to your physical activity, while breaking up your sedentary time
* Don’t email a colleague down the passage – walk to his or her office and ask your question
* If you’re on the tenth floor and starting from a position of being very unfit, stop the lift at the ninth floor and walk up one flight
*While doing repetitive tasks at the computer, put on some music and tap your feet in time, which ups your ‘fidget’ quotien
* Park 100 metres further away from the door of the shopping centre than you would otherwise choose to
* Automate and delegate less at home and at work – for example, do your own dishes rather than putting them in a dishwasher; wash your own car rather than paying a valet service
* Walk the dog or the kids or your partner. Even if all you do is go around the block once a day, it’s quality time spent together and it increases the number of steps you walk each day
* Dance some more! Infectious, danceable music played while you do tasks such as cooking tempts you into moving a little more.
If you’d like to consult a physiotherapist about how to move more, or if you have any back, neck or joint pain that hinders you, call the SASP on (011) 615 3170 to find out where physiotherapists are offering free consultations during National Physiotherapy BackWeek, or to get the contact details of a physiotherapist close to you.
1. K. Ashlee McGuire, Robert Ross. Incidental Physical Activity Is Positively Associated With Cardiorespiratory Fitness. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2011; 1 DOI: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31821e4ff2
Issued on behalf of
The South African Society of Physiotherapy