The definition of “work” has changed a lot in just the last century. Not too long ago, working meant laboring—moving, sweating, lifting, plowing, and a host of other progressive verbs. But over the past several decades, much of our work has shifted indoors and behind desks… and this doesn’t bode well for our health.
“Most of us spend about 75 percent of our day sitting or being sedentary,” warns Dr. Meredith Peddie, “and this behavior has been linked to increased rates of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, and overall mortality.”
Nurses and medical assistants aren’t exempt either. One recent study noted that employees who work shifts (specifically nurses) have a much more difficult time scheduling physical activity.
But none of this is new. We’ve known for a while that anything sedentary is bad for us. Nurses and Nurse Practitioners are constantly on the lookout for hypertension and lower back pain in patients that too much sitting can often cause. But fixing the issue can sometimes feel like an out-of-reach goal.
Look up any article on healthy living and the word that always precedes “exercise” is the word “regular”, and that can be disheartening. As the earlier study mentioned, shift work has an unpredictability that makes regular exercise difficult. And when you look at the prescribed amount of regular exercise (at least two and half hours per week), it’s easy to come to the conclusion “why bother?” After all, if you can’t do the minimum suggested amount, anything less is a waste of time, right?
Wrong. And that’s excellent news.
As researchers continue to study the impact of exercise on the human body, one thing keeps coming up—when it comes to physical activity, something is always better than nothing.
When it comes to prolonged sitting, for example, Dr. Peddie’s research concluded with clear results: even short interruptions to sitting (once every half hour) had distinctly positive impacts on health. And amazingly, neither the intensity level nor the age/weight of those monitored seemed to matter. You simply need to get up and move more often.
“We should all be finding ways to avoid sitting for long periods, and to increase the amount of movement we do throughout the entire day,” Dr. Peddie suggests.
Of course, getting to the gym or the trail has even greater benefits, but can also be difficult to find time to do regularly. Fortunately, even just a single workout has proven positive results for your body.
Mere minutes of exercise can begin to alter your muscles’ DNA, turning on certain genes for strength and metabolism. You’ll also get the mental boost that comes from endorphins and serotonin, both of which are released within one exercise session. Even the way your body metabolizes fats improves with just one good session of sweat—and because of this, just that one workout can improve your resistance to diabetes.
Not only does your body improve with a single exercise session, your mind and spirits do as well. That means improved focus and a decrease in stress, even if you just work out for ten minutes!
Obviously, regular exercise is still the healthiest option, but intermittent exercise certainly has its benefits as well. So the next time you finish your shift, toss your dirty scrubs, and are deciding between your workout clothes or your comfy sweatpants, remember that even a quick workout is better than none at all.