Dr. Katrina Traikov ND

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Exercise – a little goes a long way!

New research may start changing the way we think about exercise

One American study looked at activity levels tracked by accelerometers of the general population, and of people with chronic kidney disease. The study divided activity levels into four categories: sedentary, low, light, and moderate to vigorous in order of increasing intensity. From previous research, we know that sitting or being inactive is linked with obesity, diabetes, and an increased risk of dying.

Firstly, they found that people with chronic kidney disease typically spend more time being sedentary or inactive than the general population. Perhaps this is also true of people with other chronic health conditions.

Trade that stand and stretch break for a short walk

The researchers also found that the risk of dying in both the general population group and the group with chronic kidney disease was decreased by a third if there were two minutes of light intensity activity like walking, gardening or housework per hour that people were awake. Low intensity activities like standing, studying or taking notes in a meeting did not provide the same benefit as the light intensity activity did. Also, though there was a trend toward a further decrease with comparable amounts of moderate to vigorous activities like brisk walking, running, or lifting weights, but this was not statistically significant.

No one’s saying to stop exercising moderately or vigorously if you enjoy it

No one’s saying to stop exercising moderately or vigorously if you enjoy it, or that moderate to vigorous activity doesn’t offer other benefits. These researchers just found that light intensity exercise provided a significant benefit compared to inactivity in terms of lowering the risk of death. There was not a statistically significant difference in this risk between the light intensity group and the moderate to vigorous intensity group.

The truth is, regular light intensity activity such as housework, walking and gardening for two minutes of every hour we’re awake, is linked to a 33% lower chance of dying compared to being a couch or desk-potato

Though there are other benefits from exercise such as flexibility from stretching and endurance and strength from moderate to vigorous exercise; sometimes an exercise regimen can seem overwhelming. Sometimes we think that we don’t have enough time or energy to exercise so we just give up altogether. The truth is, regular light intensity activity such as housework, walking and gardening for two minutes of every hour we’re awake is linked with a 33% lower chance of dying compared to being a couch or desk-potato.

In addition, it’s possible that light intensity activity may be more accessible to someone who is older, has a chronic health condition, or even the general population, especially when people are just getting started on the path to better health.

Light-intensity exercise for seniors and the elderly

Another study published recently suggests that light intensity activity, such as housework, may provide other health benefits as well, especially for seniors and the elderly. This study observed older adults aged 65 to 94 years. The researchers noted that physical activity like housework, and potentially the associated pride or decreased stress level from keeping an orderly living environment was linked with an increased self-report of physical function and emotional well-being among seniors and the elderly.

In North America, the mainstream assumption until now has been that the more intensely we exercise, the more beneficial it is for us, but that may not be true.

Perhaps more studies will begin looking at the benefits of light intensity activity.

For now, we are just starting to understand that trading that stand and stretch break for a short walk may offer major health benefits.


Beddhu S., Wei G., Marcus R. L. et al. Light-Intensity Physical Activities and Mortality in the United States General Population and CKD Subpopulation. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol. 2015 Apr 30. pii: CJN.08410814.

Wright K. D., Pepper G.A., Caserta M., et al. Factors that influence physical function and emotional well-being among Medicare-Medicaid enrollees. Geriatr Nurs. 2015 Mar-Apr; 36 (2 Suppl):S16-20. doi: 10.1016/j.gerinurse.2015.02.022.

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