Does it only take 20 minutes?

The most common excuse sedentary people give for not exercising is a lack of time. When most people imagine the daunting idea of taking up a fitness regime, they picture hours slogging away on the treadmill or slaving away in the free weights area for hours on end.

As we know, regular exercise brings with it a host of benefits. Recent research suggests that a mere 20 minutes of activity per day will improve physical fitness and increase mental health.

In the past, people lived much more active lives and never had to worry about meeting any “recommended” daily amount of activity. Unfortunately, due to the advancement of technology, approximately 80 per cent of jobs are completely sedentary. People spend all day sitting, and then drive home from work to sit in front of their televisions or computers some more.

Most of us spend our lives doing this!

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By exercising every day for as little as 20 minutes, you can expect to lower your risk of cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis. The benefits of such 20 minute workouts are especially heightened when it comes to those people who have been sedentary for many years, if not their entire lives. People will experience a huge drop in mortality rates once they begin exercising.

A recent study by the University of Cambridge demonstrated that a person’s risk of dying prematurely from any cause dropped by 20 per cent if they began to meet the recommended guidelines of 150 minutes of exercise per week, compared with an inactive person.

However, if someone tripled that minimum recommended guideline and completed 90 minutes of exercise per day, although the risk of premature death dropped further, it was only by an additional 4 per cent.

In general, the greater the intensity of the exercise, the greater the benefits it brings. Someone will have a lower risk of developing heart disease and cancer if they jog or walk briskly as opposed to taking a casual stroll through the park. That being said, there is no need to train at an extreme intensity all of the time.

Mental benefits can be obtained from a fairly short period of exercise. Things like taking a short 10-15 minute walk, cooking, gardening and cleaning all improve cognition.

In terms of slowing down the ageing process, a little exercise – even five minutes a day – is better than none.

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However, studies have shown that even an hour of exercise per day may not be enough to negate an otherwise sedentary lifestyle. Exercise does not have that much of an effect if the rest of your day is spent sitting down. If you are sedentary in every moment spent outside of the gym, your risk of developing heart problems will still increase.

One interesting study completed in 1949 compared the health of bus drivers and conductors on London’s double decker buses. The conductors, who spent their days walking up and down the stairs, were less than half as likely to suffer heart attacks and had a smaller waist size compared to their bus driver counterparts, who spent approximately 90 per cent of their workday sitting.

As an example, do you think you would gain more benefit from walking three miles every day or running a marathon once a month? It is far more beneficial to spread your activity throughout each day. Take regular breaks from sitting in front of a computer to stand, stretch and get the blood pumping. Walk wherever you can instead of driving or using public transport, and always stand when you could sit.

The entire western world is becoming more overweight and unhealthier by the day, largely due to the ever increasing amount of time we spend sitting. Do all that you can to take charge of your health and keep active!

How many minutes do you spend exercising per day?

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