Great news for everyone who thinks that the only type of exercise that counts is sweaty and strenuous, and has to be done at the gym.
New research shows that you can get just as much benefit from walking a couple of times around the block, or climbing up and down stairs more often than you usually would.
People who increase their general "lifestyle activity" in this way improve their cardiorespiratory fitness and blood pressure levels, just as much as anyone taking part in an organised fitness regime at the gym.
Researchers from the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas, Texas took a group of 235 sedentary men and women and put them through two years of either a traditional exercise programme, which included up to one hour of aerobic activity three to five days a week, or an increased lifestyle programme, including such activities as a walk around the local shopping mall, for at least half an hour, seven days a week.
Both groups had significant, and similar, improvements in their cardiorespiratory fitness and blood pressure. Neither group significantly reduced weight, but both showed reductions in percentage of body fat.
With 60 per cent of the population too sedentary, the idea of a vigorous walk around the block may not seem so daunting as a trip to the local health club (JAMA, 1999; 281: 327-34).