Studies have found people benefit from little bits of activity, says Ethan Roberts, a physical therapist with Total Rehab Care at Robinwood Medical Center.
"Certainly any kind of activity is better than nothing, even little bits and pieces of things," Roberts says.
Climbing steps, cleaning, vacuuming, mopping, gardening, even scrubbing the toilet burns calories, Roberts says. Park the car further away from the store for a longer walk or take the steps instead of the elevator.
Don't overdo it
People who aren't used to a lot of activity should increase their activity level slowly, rather than doubling it overnight, says Dr. John Reed, who practices internal medicine and pediatrics at Smithsburg Family Medical Center.
The CDC recommends that people who aren't currently engaging in a regular physical activity start with a few minutes of physical activity each day. Gradually increase that to 30 minutes or more of activities the CDC considers to be of moderate intensity.
Moderate-intensity activities include:
· Walking at a moderate or brisk pace of 3 to 4.5 mph on a level surface.
· Roller-skating or in-line skating at a leisurely pace.
· Water aerobics
· Dancing be it ballroom, line, disco, square, folk, ballet or modern
· Carrying golf clubs
· Fishing while walking along a riverbank
· Playing instruments while actively moving
· Weeding while standing or bending
· Pushing a power lawn mower
· Scrubbing the floor or bathtub while on hands and knees
· Cleaning out the garage
· Walking and putting household items away
· Actively playing with children
· Home repair such as painting or cleaning gutters
· Hand washing and waxing a car
People who are somewhat active but want to be more consistently active should try moderate-intensive physical activities for 30 minutes or more on five or more days a week, or vigorous-intensive physical activity for 20 minutes or more on three or more days a week, according to the CDC's Web site.
Vigorous-intensive activities include:
· Walking or climbing briskly up a hill
· Aerobic walking (5 mph or faster)
· Jumping rope
· Dancing energetically
· Most competitive sports
· Canoeing 4 mph or faster
· Pushing a nonmotorized lawn mower
· Moving or pushing heavy furniture
· Standing, walking or walking down stairs while carrying objects weighing 50 pounds or more
· Grocery shopping while carrying young children and pushing a full grocery cart
· Carrying someone weighing 25 pounds or more upstairs.
· Hand-sawing hardwoods
· Vigorously playing with children
For more moderate-intensive and vigorous-intensive activities, go to www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/physical/pdf/PA_Intensity_table_2_1.pdf.
Reed says physical activity has cardiovascular and weight-loss benefits.
People should exercise caution and common sense, he says. If you're using a push mower rather than a riding mower, it's better to mow the lawn early in the morning or in the evening when it's cooler.
Pay attention to muscle fatigue. Change positions or take a break, Roberts says.
Anyone who experiences excessive shortness of breath or chest discomfort should stop the physical activity and call a doctor, Reed says.
Flexibility and fluids
Dolores Howell, 79, who lives near Williamsport, didn't realize that when she was doing household chores such as vacuuming, dusting and washing windows that she was working out.
While she doesn't stretch, she does make sure to drink lots of water as does her husband, Calvin, 81, when mowing the lawn and doing other activities.
People who have been sitting a while should warm their muscles up rather than going straight into an activity such as lifting boxes, Roberts says. Walking around a little can be enough to warm up muscles.
Maintaining flexibility is just as important as strength, Roberts says.
Weekend warriors doing projects such as installing a backyard fence should loosen up before, during and after this activity to avoid strains, he says.
"Just getting up in the morning and doing some gentle stretching on a daily basis will improve circulation, balance and make it less likely to injure themselves," Reed says.
Staying hydrated while doing physical chores also is important, especially if working outside during hot weather, Roberts says.
Drink water before, during breaks and after the activity.
Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages because they are diuretic, increasing the amount of fluid excreted and leading to dehydration, Roberts says.
"Even though a cold beer feels good, it's probably not the best thing to rehydrate you," Roberts says.