Incidental Exercise: Does it actually help?

Incidental Exercise: Does it actually help?

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And just like that.. the holiday season is upon us! Cue warm summer nights and Christmas catch ups as the end of the year fast approaches. 

It's certainly a fabulous time of year, but can also be a challenging time to keep up a regular exercise regime. 

One strategy that often comes up to help offset the impact of missed sessions during this busy period is making a conscious effort to increase incidental exercise.

So what do we mean by incidental exercise?

And can it actually help us stay healthy during the festive season?

Incidental exercise can be defined as any activity built up in small amounts over the course of day (Queensland Health, 2018). It tends to be a little less structured then a planned singular bout of activity, and can occur in many forms.

Here are some examples

  • Taking the stairs instead of the lift/escalator
  • Walking to the shops/bus stop/train station
  • Choosing to park the car further away 
  • Playing with mates/your kids at a park
  • Short busts of gardening
  • Cleaning around the house
  • Standing up and moving around the office whilst at work

I often explain to clients that whilst structured exercise sessions offer many benefits, keeping your daily routine as active as possible can also provide many positives. Incidental exercise can help keep you mobile, burn energy and remain fit. Incidentals can keep different muscles and tendons in check, offer some variety to your existing routine and can be great ways to get outside in nature!

If structured exercise sessions are not possible for whatever reason, I still encourage clients to keep moving in whatever ways are practical! I firmly believe that ideally, an activity lifestyle combines both structured exercise sessions and regular incidental choices. Research has found that as long as the activity is of a moderate intensity, (like the examples listed above) it can have a positive impact on the health of older adults. We know that many non-communicable chronic health conditions prevalent in both developed and developing countries are associated with physical inactivity so am keen to help clients remain active in whatever way possible. 

Another bonus with incidental activity, is that you don't need to set aside a big chunk of time to complete it. The sky is the limit in terms of how you can inject bouts of movement into your day, and the smaller bouts often mean this type of activity is more manageable during the holiday season.

So to wrap up, every step and active choice counts! If you can see your regular sessions reducing in the coming weeks, think incidentals! All the steps and movements add up to help you remain active and healthy over the holiday season. 

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