American Council on Exercise Study Asks: How Can Everyday Activities, Like Washing Dishes, Improve Health?

Posted: Dec 07, 2017 in ACE Press Releases

Research from leading nonprofit certifier of exercise professionals and health coaches studies how to counteract the negative effects of prolonged sitting, even in active people

San Diego, December 7, 2017 — With a culture of desk jobs, car commutes and television binges, it comes as no surprise that the average American spends at least 12 hours per day sitting—contributing to chronic, physical inactivity-related conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Research has shown that interrupting long periods of sitting with small periods of movement can improve health, but without guidance on how much of which activities will make a difference, many remain unmotivated to move.

To find out just how much movement is needed to counteract the effects of sitting for long periods of time, American Council on Exercise (ACE) commissioned a scientific study to identify the optimal FIT (frequency, intensity and length of time) of movement for middle-aged and older adults. To provide the tools for all people to get moving, a research team from Western State Colorado University studied a series of common activities—such as folding laundry, washing dishes and walking—available to all people regardless of age, location or socioeconomic status.

"Participating in regular exercise has a plethora of health benefits—from maintaining weight to improving mood—but it can't counteract being at a desk all day," says Cedric X. Bryant, PhD, chief science officer for American Council on Exercise. "Sitting down for extended periods of time day in and day out can elevate a number of health risk factors. All that sitting needs to be interrupted regularly, regardless of whether there is an exercise program in place."

The researchers recruited 13 middle-aged or older adults who participated in a weekly exercise regimen but were sedentary for six or more hours per day. In addition, each participant had one or more of the following health conditions:  high blood pressure, high cholesterol or high blood sugar. Researchers compared the health effects of four different activity protocols:

  • Five minutes of low-to-moderate activity every hour that could include standing while reading, folding laundry and/or washing dishes
  • Five minutes of a low-to-moderate activity every two hours
  • Five minutes of a slightly more intense activity every two hours that could include walking at a normal place, slow dancing and/or taking out the trash
  • Ten minutes of a slightly more intense activity every two hours

After one week, five minutes of low-to-moderate activity per hour resulted in significant health benefits across all study participants, including:

  • A 21.2 percent increase in HDL ("good") cholesterol
  • A 24.6 percent decrease in triglycerides
  • A 6.1 percent reduction in blood sugar

With 10 minutes of the slightly more intense activity every two hours, participants achieved similar results:

  • An 18.4 percent increase in HDL (“good”) cholesterol
  • A 23.0 percent decrease in triglycerides
  • A 7.8 percent reduction in blood sugar

Despite a healthy exercise habit, when participants stopped integrating regular standing movements into their day, all the health benefits they experienced during the study were reversed.

"What we're seeing is that we need to focus on both structured exercise programs and every day movement," notes Dr. Bryant. "By adding regular movement throughout the day, people were seeing health benefits beyond those they were already getting from their exercise routine."

In light of the study findings, researchers urge personal trainers, health coaches and medical professionals to consider how often their clients interrupt long periods of sitting, as well as how often they exercise, as both have fundamental impacts on health.

For this reason, ACE Certified Health Coaches are trained to help people develop sustainable healthy habits, such as incorporating more movement into their daily routines This may be as simple as spreading activities people already do, such as doing the dishes and standing up to fold laundry while binging their favorite show, throughout the day instead of performing them all at once.

View the complete study here.

Find an ACE Certified Health Coach to help you build the habits that will get you moving toward a longer, healthier life.

About ACE

With a mission to get people moving, the nonprofit organization American Council on Exercise (ACE) educates, certifies and represents more than 70,000 currently certified fitness professionals, health coaches and other allied health professionals. ACE advocates for a new intersection of fitness and healthcare, bringing the highly qualified professionals ACE represents into the healthcare continuum so they can contribute to the national solution to physical inactivity and obesity. ACE is the leading certifier in its space and all four of its primary certification programs are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the gold standard in the United States for accreditation of certifications that assess professional competence. ACE also plays an important public-service role, conducting and providing science-based research and resources on safe and effective physical activity and sustainable behavior change. For more information, call 800-825-3636 or visit AMERICAN COUNCIL ON EXERCISE, ACE and ACE logos are Registered Trademarks of the American Council on Exercise.

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