If you can't make it to the gym ...

Internist Sheree Lipkis, of Northbrook, installed a treadmill desk in her office so she can walk while she checks emails and lab results between patients.

Publicist Robert Smith, of Loves Park, takes the farthest parking spot at church, restaurants and stores. Appraiser Duard Mosley, of Elmhurst, mows his lawn and shovels his snow.

Just by squeezing these bouts of exercise into their daily routines, they can benefit as much as they do by going to the gym, said a study from Oregon State University.

"Even if it's in increments of a few minutes, if it adds up to the recommended 30 minutes a day, it's as good as structured exercise," said Paul Loprinzi, lead author of the study and assistant professor of exercise science at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky. "It has the same effects on your metabolism, blood pressure and cholesterol."

Body mass index (BMI), though, does not improve without longer, sustained exercise.

Although Americans say they have less time to exercise and their jobs are typically sedentary, said Loprinzi, "we hypothesized that they were getting more exercise than they realized if they made conscious efforts to be active. The study showed that 40 percent of adults do, in fact, get their 30 minutes just by making sure they maintain an active way of life."

The study included 6,000 adults nationwide. They wore accelerometers to measure their movement.

The results have public health implications, said Loprinzi, who practices what he preaches by trimming his lawn with a push mower, taking stairs instead of elevators and scheduling "walking" instead of "sit-down" meetings with students and colleagues.

"Not everyone has the money to join a gym," said Loprinzi. "But everyone can work some sort of movement into their day. If your job means you're at a desk all day, set your watch to beep every hour, then take a brisk walk around the building. Or walk instead of sitting while you're on the phone. When you get home, instead of sending the kids out to play, play with them."

For some people, these spurts of exercise are all they have time for.

"I'm really not a gym person," said Lipkis. "I have a treadmill in my basement that I don't use. The truth: I'd rather be relaxing at a beach house." But, she said, studies show the negative impact prolonged sitting can have on your life expectancy. "So by having the treadmill desk, and using it on and off all day, I keep moving."

For others, it is part of a more active lifestyle that triggers added bonuses. Except for a handful of cold days each year, Mosley rides his bicycle to his Wheaton office.

"It only adds about 15 minutes to my commute, it's free and I hardly ever need to buy gas," he said.

Pondered Mosley: "It's ironic. People line up to get the closest parking spot at the health club. Sometimes you just need to think."

The study was published in the January/February issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion.

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