Figuring out how to get started exercising can be confusing.
There are countless options, all promoting themselves as “the best”.
Benefiting from physical activity, however, might be simpler than you think.
Physical inactivity, sitting, and lying around are often called “sedentary” behavior (1).
Sedentary behavior has been linked to musculoskeletal discomfort and impaired cognitive function (2), reduced thoracic mobility (3), depression (4), endometrial, colorectal, breast, and lung cancers (5), cardiovascular disease and diabetes (6), cardiovascular disease mortality (7), and all-cause mortality (8).
Fortunately, physical activity has the potential to reduce, or effectively eliminate, many of these risks (9).
You’ll probably want to build up to at least 150 to 300 minutes of physical activity per week (10).
That doesn’t necessarily mean dedicating hours at a time for structured “exercise”.
You might find seeking out small opportunities to integrate movement into your daily routine most convenient and effective.
A 2019 systematic review of 29 studies concluded that total physical activity – even when accumulated over bouts shorter than 10 minutes – can improve health outcomes, including all-cause mortality (11).
A 2019 meta-analysis of 19 studies found that continuous and intermittent exercises equally improved fitness and blood pressure, lipids, insulin, and glucose; with a small number of studies showing intermittent activity favorable for body mass and LDL cholesterol (12).
A 2019 randomized controlled trial saw similar benefits from intermittent and continuous walking on body weight, fat mass, and body fat percentage, with intermittent walking leading to increased lean mass and fat free mass (13).
A 2020 meta-analysis of 37 studies found that breaking up sitting with physical activity improved postprandial blood glucose, insulin, and triglycerides, with small advantage over continuous exercise for improving glucose measures (14).
The key idea here is to make movement a regular habit.
Park farther away from the office.
Take phone calls on walks.
Use the stairs.
Find what works for you.
Start where you are.
Do what you can.
You’ve got this.