- CHICAGO (Reuters) - Put away the snow blower and unpack the snow shovel
-- clearing sidewalks the old-fashioned way can improve health and shed
pounds as well as a formal exercise program, researchers said Tuesday.
- A pair of studies published in the Journal
of the American Medical Association compared fitness levels of adults.
The studies found that taking a brisk walk, raking leaves and climbing
the stairs instead of catching the elevator can prove to be as effective
as a formal exercise program in improving blood pressure and heart and
- In a study of 235 sedentary men by the
Cooper Institute for Aerobic Research in Dallas, those assigned to a traditional
exercise program improved their fitness more than adults who made lifestyle
activity changes during the first six months.
- But over the full two-year study period,
the first group's fitness declined by more than that of the lifestyle group,
leaving the two at similar fitness levels at the end of the study.
- "This is, to our knowledge, the
first demonstration that a lifestyle approach to increasing physical activity
in previously sedentary healthy adults is as effective over 24 months
as more traditional structured exercise approaches," study author
Andrea Dunn wrote.
- A second study of 40 overweight women
by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore
produced similar results in terms of weight loss.
- Study author Ross Andersen compared the
results of a diet program on two groups: one that participated in a programmed
aerobic exercise and the other that increased its participation in common
activities such as daily walks, yard work and household chores.
- After 16 weeks, the mean weight loss
was 18.3 pounds in the aerobic exercise group and 17.4 pounds for the
lifestyle group. The researchers found significant reductions in cholesterol
and triglycerides in both groups, and also found a larger weight gain in
the aerobic group after a one-year follow-up.
- "This is good news for people who
understand the role of physical activity in weight control but dislike
vigorous physical activity or believe that they lack time to exercise,"
- "For sedentary overweight patients,
a diet combined with a lifestyle program of gradual and moderate-intensity
physical activity can facilitate weight loss and enhance weight management
and improve CVD (cardiovascular disease) risk profiles," he wrote.
- The National Institutes of Health's National
Heart, Lung and Blood Institute said lack of physical activity is a major
risk factor for heart disease and contributes to other illnesses.
- Federal statistics show that about one
in four U.S. adults are sedentary and another third are not active enough
to reach a healthy level of fitness.