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Fitting in Fitness

When you think of exercise, you probably think of structured workouts such as Pilates or running. In fact, you can reap the same rewards with a basic "bottoms-up" approach to fitness—that is, don't sit when you can stand, and don't stand when you can walk. Now, that's a motto to live by!

Small bouts of "lifestyle activity," such as walking around the block after dinner instead of watching a game show or pacing while you talk on the telephone rather than sitting, are by no means intense. Nevertheless, they can be just as good for you as more vigorous exercise, according to research.

In a two-year study of more than 230 overweight and inactive men and women, researchers at the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas found that those who sneaked more movement minutes into their days by

  • taking the stairs at the office
  • parking farther from the door at shopping malls
  • pulling weeds around the yard
achieved the same improvements in fitness, blood pressure and body fat as those who went to the gym and exercised vigorously for 20 to 60 minutes five days a week.

Apparently, small-time investments yield big payoffs. The key is finding active opportunities throughout the day, every day. Once you start looking, you'll be surprised by how many minutes in motion you can rack up.