No time for the gym? Or just dread the idea of going? Here's a novel idea: Skip the gym altogether and stop being so lazy when it comes to whether you take the stairs instead of the elevator to get to your fifth-floor office. A new study from Oregon State University shows "everyday activity," like taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking to work instead of driving, can be boost your health and weight-loss efforts as much a 30-minute bout on the treadmill or stationary bike at the gym.
Don't believe it? You should: The Oregon State study is the latest and one of the largest, with 6,000 participants, in a long line of research to show that cumulative everyday exercise, like parking farther away from the store, can help lower your cholesterol, control your weight, and give you all the same benefits as "traditional" exercise – for example, that half-hour tennis match, 3-mile jog, or 30-minute StairMaster slog. "As long as it adds up to 30 minutes a day, the benefits of lifestyle activity compared to moderate to vigorous exercise are pretty much the same," says Oregon State researcher and study co-author Brad Cardinal.
And there's another advantage to everyday activity. It's more natural, says Cardinal, than traditional exercise. "From an anthropological perspective, we were hunter-gathers at one time and did these natural movements. So I think this lifestyle model resonates with people because they're doing something purposeful and more natural," he says.
Cardinal also adds that doing everyday activity and avoiding traditional exercise altogether may even be more preferable for people with joint problems or arthritis, and for older or obese people who don't already have an exercise routine. That's because doing things like taking the stairs and raking leaves are done for shorter periods of time, so you're not doing the same repetitive motion you would over and over again when working out on a StairMaster or rowing machine. And less repetitive motion means less inflammation – the cause of many overuse injuries.