incidental exercise

Does incidental exercise actually help?

Some weeks, it can be hard to get enough structured exercise into your day-to-day routine. Life gets busy, we get it. But did you know there are ways to boost your activity levels that don’t include going to the gym or out for a run?

One strategy that often comes up to help offset the impact of missed sessions during a busy period is making a conscious effort to increase incidental exercise.

So, what do we mean by incidental exercise? And can it actually help us stay healthy?

What is incidental exercise?

Incidental exercise is defined as any activity built up in small amounts over the course of day (Queensland Health, 2018). It tends to be less structured than a planned singular bout of activity, and can occur in many forms.

Here are some examples:

  • Taking the stairs instead of the lift/escalator
  • Walking to the shops/bus stop/train station
  • Choosing to park the car further away
  • Playing with mates/your kids at a park
  • Short bursts of gardening
  • Cleaning around the house
  • Standing up and moving around the office whilst at work

incidental exercise gardening

Does this mean I don’t have to do “structured” exercise?

No, it doesn’t.

I firmly believe that ideally, an activity lifestyle combines both structured exercise sessions and regular incidental choices. But if structured exercise sessions are not possible for whatever reason, I always encourage clients to keep moving in whatever ways are practical!

What are the benefits of incidental exercise?

I often explain to clients that whilst structured exercise sessions offer many benefits, keeping your daily routine as active as possible can also provide many positives. Incidental exercise can help to keep you mobile, burn energy and remain fit. Incidentals also keep different muscles and tendons in check, offer some variety to your existing routine and can be great ways to get outside in nature!

Research has found that as long as the activity is of a moderate intensity, (like the examples listed above) it can have a positive impact on the health of older adults. We know that many non-communicable chronic health conditions are associated with physical inactivity, so my goal is to help clients remain active in whatever way possible.

Another bonus with incidental activity, is that you don’t need to set aside a big chunk of time to complete it. The sky is the limit in terms of how you can inject bouts of movement into your day, and the smaller bouts often mean this type of activity is more manageable.

Where to from here…

So to wrap up, every step and active choice counts! If you can see your regular sessions reducing, think incidentals! All the steps and movements add up to help you remain active and healthy.

If you need some help and advice when it comes to exercise, either structured or incidental, chat to your local exercise physiologist. They can help to prescribe movement based on your health, fitness level and individual needs.

To find your local Accredited Exercise Physiologist, click here.

exercise physiologist

Sarah is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist at BJC Health.