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Healthy Moves a Couch Potato Can Love

Man walking dogs on the beach

Is your idea of “Just Doing It” walking to the fridge for a snack during commercials? If so, take heart. Researchers are finding that adding even modest moves can take you from sedentary to physically active. In some cases, enough to avoid the weight gain that sneaks on as we age.

Getting more activity in your life and avoiding weight gain are two powerful steps toward a cancer-protective lifestyle. According to AICR’s expert report, physical activity and staying lean throughout your life can lower your risk for many cancers. Physical activity may also boost your immune system and help your body balance hormones to help protect cells from damage that may lead to cancer.

Stealth Exercise

Exercise experts use the term “METs” (metabolic equivalents) to measure the intensity of any kind of physical activity. One MET is defined as the energy you use at rest, sitting quietly or reading a book, for example. Moderate activity means anything between 3.0 to 5.9 METs, such as gardening or walking about 3–4 miles per hour.

Maybe you’ve been thinking you should join a gym or train for a marathon, but it just isn’t happening. This might be the time to aim for health in a way that works for you – perhaps coming up with ways you can increase your METs throughout the day. The more METs, the more calories you burn.

If you sit in an office most of the day here’s what you can do:

  • Stand up instead of sitting for at least 2 hours – when reading or talking on the phone – you’ll burn about 100 calories more than when seated. METs increase from 1.5 to 2.3 during that time.
  • Get up from your desk at least every 30 minutes and stretch (2.5 METs) or walk somewhere for a few minutes.
  • Have walking meetings. Leisurely walking increases METS to 3 and you’ll burn twice as many calories as sitting.
  • Take 15 minutes to walk before getting your lunch – inside or outside. If you brown bag it and eat at work or the weather’s too nasty, do a few stairs before and after eating.

Tips for boosting METS at home:

  • Do some stretching while watching TV (2.5 METs)
  • Cook your dinner from scratch (2.5 METS)
  • Play with your children, make homemade bread or do a few chores (2.5 METs)

Brain Boosting Benefits

Need more reasons to add a little action to your life? Here are more pay-offs of physical activity:

  • Relieves stress
  • Enhances mood
  • Improves sleep
  • Supports learning
  • Boosts self-esteem

Boosting METS even more:

  • Take a brisk walk in the neighborhood (6.0 METS)
  • Get out your old bike and try it out (6.0 METS)

You’ll find your own ways to boost METs throughout the day – start with one simple idea and build toward more and more "small steps." Let an active lifestyle be about the entire day – walking, standing, stretching – and not just one daily workout session. Stealth health – let it sneak up on you.

For more information on physical activity:

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