It is hard to believe that in many first world countries a statement such as “walking is underrated” actually holds water. After all, for many people around the world, walking and holding water remain a joint activity!

The reason walking went from banal to novel in wealthier pockets of the globe is because new technology replaced essential activities, and continues to do so. Escalators and elevators made stairs a formality. Moving sidewalks are common in many airports and convention centers. Even trips to the mall are virtually replaced with online shopping.

The sum of this wonderful technology has pernicious downsides, which are by now quite well documented. For many, the best way to add exercise into a busy schedule is a 30-60-minute workout. However, this is far from the only way to maintain an active lifestyle.

A team of researchers from McMaster University and University of British Columbia Okanagan recently completed a new study, published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism,  which trumpet a paradigm shift in contemporary culture.

Caroline Praderio elaborated on the findings in her article for INSIDER, including an interview with senior author of the study, Dr. Martin Gibala, professor of kinesiology at McMaster University, writing:

The researchers recruited 24 college students who were healthy but inactive, reporting less than one hour of structured exercise per week. 

Half of the students were randomly assigned to a control group, while the other half took on a six-week regimen of exercise “snacks,” or short bursts of physical activity. (The term “exercise snacks” was coined by another team of researchers in 2014, the authors wrote in the paper.) 

This latter group performed three exercise snacks per day, three days out of the week. For each snack, they vigorously climbed stairs for 20 seconds.

Each bout of stair climbing was separated by one to four hours of recovery time. The snacks were also preceded by a short warmup (10 jumping jacks, 10 squats, and five lunges on each side) and followed by a one-minute walking cooldown. 

“The practical analogy would be, people come into work in the morning and bound up a few flights of stairs. They do that again on a break or a lunch and they do it again before they leave for the day,” Gibala said.

“We’re not at all suggesting that people should only do a minute of exercise or this is all you need,” Gibala said. “Really it’s a reminder to people that small bouts of activity can be effective. They add up over time. Exercise doesn’t mean you have to change into spandex and go to the gym. It can be something as easy as stair climbing.”

Sedentary lifestyles yield a litany of negative side effects. The best way to combat this is not by ardent disparaging of technology, but instead through structuring conscientious activity throughout the day.

To read Praderio’s full writeup, click here.