Incidental Exercise: A Healthy Habit that Can Improve Your Pain

We all know exercise is important for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The latest guidelines suggest we should be accumulating 2 ½ to 5 hours of moderate intensity exercise, or 1 ¼ to 2 ½ hours of vigorous intensity exercise a week. However our habits throughout the rest of the day might be undoing this hard work.

On average, an Australian adult spends 5 hours and 35 minutes sitting per day. Research has found that a sedentary lifestyle puts people at increased risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and depression etc.

But how much sitting is too much sitting?

Guidelines recommend less than three hours of sitting a day. So we better stop watching Lord of the Rings and flying to Europe!

What can we do about it?

Incidental exercise is the activity we get from unstructured exercise throughout the day.  Activities like walking to work, or taking the stairs instead of using the lift.

Incidental exercise can also help improve your injury or pain:

Incidental exercise not only improves your health, but can contribute to the amount of pain you feel when recovering from an injury.

While you may be motivated and complete your physiotherapy exercises, if you sit all day at work then your injury still isn’t going to get better.  When we sit for long periods of time, no matter what posture we are holding, our muscles eventually fatigue.

When muscles fatigue they produce a waste product called lactic acid.  Normally this product is removed from our muscles when we move, as our muscles act like a pump and help the product move through our circulatory system. However, when we sit too long, this waste product builds up in our muscles and can contribute to the pain we experience.  It is similar to the feeling you get when you over exert yourself on a hard run, or the soreness you feel after a big gym session.  The same thing happens when we ask our muscles to sit or stand in one position, for longer than they can tolerate.

So if you experience pain or are suffering from an injury, by decreasing the amount of time you spend sitting and increasing your incidental exercise time, you are not only improving your health but also helping reduce the pain you experience from ailments or injuries.

Here are ten simple ways to increase your incidental exercise:

  1. Cycle to work or park a few blocks away and walk.
  2. Aim to move after every 30 minutes of sitting – walk to the photo copier, get a class of water from the kitchen, or walk to your colleague’s office instead of sending an email.
  3. Walk to the park to eat your lunch, rather than sitting at your desk or in the staff room.
  4. Use a pedometer or app on your phone to track the number of steps you take. Aim to build up to 10,000 steps per day.
  5. Don’t wait for the lift, take the stairs instead.
  6. Put the television remote in a different room, so every time you change the channel you have to get up and move.
  7. Get outside and smell the roses. Gardening is a great way to keep active.
  8. Socialise actively – grab a takeaway coffee and catch up with a friend while walking.
  9. Talk and walk – take your meetings to the street, or use your wireless headset to pace the room.
  10. Walk the dog (or if you have a dog like mine, let the dog walk you)

About the Author:

Monique Clark is a Physiotherapist at Physiotas in Launceston.

Monique relocated from Launceston to study Physiotherapy at the University of South Australia. Following this she worked at the Launceston General Hospital, gaining experience in rehabilitation and post operative physiotherapy. Monique is interested in a range of musculoskeletal areas of physiotherapy including sports injuries, Paediatrics and Pilates.

Outside of work Monique has a keen interest in fitness taking part in local fun runs, triathlons, rowing and surfing in her spare time.