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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

It might be time to take the stairs

Regular columnist Stephen Smith, from Merewether Fitness Studio, explains what ‘incidental exercise’ is and how it can be beneficial.

In my last column I talked about finding the time to exercise, preferably some kind of structured resistance exercise.

While discussing this very topic over dinner and a few glasses of wine, a family member made a comment suggesting ‘incidental exercise’ was the best option if you were short of time.

While I agreed that incidental exercise is a good way to stay active, it does have one major shortfall compared to resistance training.

First of all, what is incidental exercise? Basically, incidental exercise is the activity we get while going about our everyday lives.

People who are mindful of this will often take the more physical or vigorous option if one is available.

Some examples of incidental exercise are:

  • Taking the stairs instead of a lift or escalator;
  • Walking or riding your bike to the shop instead of driving;
  • If you do drive, parking your car further away;
  • Playing with your kids or grandkids at a park or the beach;
  • Gardening;
  • House work;
  • At the office it could be running errands or volunteering to pick up the lunches.

A big benefit of incidental exercise is it is not structured or require much pre planning. It can have a positive impact on our health and fitness levels especially with older adults.

Incidental exercise can also help maintain mobility, burn excess kilojoules and, if performed at a moderate intensity, improve heart and lung health.

Owner and Head Trainer at Merewether Fitness Studio, Stephen Smith.

While some of the incidental exercise activities listed above could be loosely classified as resistance, they pale in comparison to true resistance or strength training, and that is its shortfall.

Resistance training is when we make our muscles work against a weight or force.

Some examples of resistance training are:

  • Exercise with dumbbells, barbells, body weight or weight machines;
  • Bodyweight activities like yoga, Pilates or pole dancing;
  • Swimming at an intensity where the water provides the resistance.

While resistance training has many proven health benefits, the one area it truly is far superior to incidental exercise is maintaining skeletal muscle and bone density.

The loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength, as a result of ageing, is known as Sarcopenia and the most effective treatment?

You guessed it….resistance training! I believe a healthy lifestyle is a balanced one and that a healthy body should be exposed to a variety of activities.

So, if you only get incidental exercise, it might be time to add some strength training.

On the other hand, if you hit the gym several times a week but are otherwise lazy, it might be time to take the stairs.

Until next time,

Health & Happiness,


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