All in outside: When it comes to fitness, a little goes a long way

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily represent those of Maryville College or the Highland Echo staff.

Right now, before you read this, do 10 jumping jacks. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing — stop. Stand up and go back to elementary school gym class.

It is hard to overstate the importance of exercise and, for people like me, it is all too easy to plunge into a sermon detailing the psychological, physiological and social benefits of being physically fit. Most of what I would say has become common knowledge, such as how exercise leads to improved body composition, better moods and decreases the risks of developing a plethora of diseases.

However, unlike a lot of health-related issues, its lack also has negative influence. Recent research has revealed that lack of exercise, especially sitting for extended periods of time, is actually harmful to one’s health.

A 2012 Australian study found that every hour a person spent watching television, likely while seated, shortened his/her lifespan by 22 minutes. A cigarette, by comparison, is estimated to take 11 minutes from a lifespan. Even the Harvard Business Review agrees, as made obvious by its August headline entitled, “Sitting is the Smoking of our Generation.”

But most of you reading this likely glazed over that paragraph. Sure, exercise is great, yet the majority of us still do not engage in it on a regular basis. Why?

The excuses are endless: Time, exhaustion, illness, injury, lack of facilities, lack of motivation, etc. The list goes on.

Do 10 more jumping jacks. Now.

My aim is not to guilt you in to adopting a rigorous exercise routine. That kind of coercion usually does not work. But what does work is doing jumping jacks. It is not that jumping jacks are a miracle exercise that will magically make you healthier or inspire you to become a triathlete, but they are a deliberate attempt to participate in an active endeavor.

A study from the Laboratory of Preventative Medicine at Louisiana State University revealed that as little as 10 minutes of exercise a day could improve cardiovascular health. It does not have to be a hardcore CrossFit workout, either. The researchers found that simply walking at a speed of 2 to 3 Miles per hour was enough to provide fitness benefits. I bet that made you do 10 more jumping jacks.

What is more encouraging is that merely not sitting seems to be just as beneficial, according to the Mayo Clinic. Standing while reading this, for example, will help you burn more calories in addition to those torched by your jumping jacks.

While your three sets of 10 jumping jacks may not go a long way in terms of solving our embattled health crises, they likely had a more positive impact on your body and brain than you realize. Of course, longer, more intense exercise is strongly recommended, but you do not have to train for a marathon to begin to improve your own health and the health of others.

Even if jumping jacks are the only physical activity you engage in today, at least you can say you did something.

And doing something, when it comes to solving our society’s most pressing issues, is certainly superior to doing nothing.

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