The American Medical Association says Middle Aged Women need 1 hour of exercise PER DAY!

A client of mine recently argued that since she was doing gardening that afternoon, she would skip her otherwise standard 30 minute warm down.

I prefer, of course, to see cardio in the club where I can measure and monitor it, but she had a point that reminded me of a fairly recent American Medical Association report documenting the way activities factor into the hour of exercise middle aged women need each day to avoid wight gain.  

In their 2009 report, researchers from Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Woman’s Hospital, and The Boston Veterans Affairs Healthcare System determined that only women who moderately exercised for at least an hour per day  were able to avoid long-term weight gain.    

That’s worth repeating: of the 34,079 middle-aged women (median age 54.2) studied over 13 years, researchers found that they ALL GAINED WEIGHT … except for those who exercised a least an hour per day.  This  determination differs significantly from the 2008 federal guideline recommendation of 150 minutes per week, and is significantly different than public perception.  But given the history of weight gain and the <ahem> growing obesity problems in America, the study is almost certainly more accurate than the federal recommendation.

But before you throw your hands up in futility (because who, after all can exercise for an hour per day 7 days per week!?), take heart.    For as it turns out, what the researchers included as ‘moderate exercise’ were activities like hiking, walking, and golfing.   Additionally, basic lifestyle behaviors were equally influential in avoiding weight gain.

Indeed, things like gardening, yard work, and shoveling can be cumulatively added to the 60 minute target.  

20 minutes of resistance training, 20 minutes of yard work, and 20 minutes of housework combined would be a perfectly acceptable “hour of moderate exercise.”  And if you do that every day of the week, it’s unlikely you’ll gain weight in the long run, according to the researcher’s findings. 

But it goes even further than that, for activities as mundane as light arts and crafts work, for instance, can burn 79 calories in 45 minutes (for a 154# gal). Or how about filing? 120 Calories in 45 minutes.  Even playing the organ will knock down 131 calories in 45 minutes. Grocery shopping? 161 calories per hour with a cart; 186/hr without.

As a rule, it was concluded, the women who gained weight over the study period did so primarily because they were less active overall than the woman who didn’t gain any weight. Yes, they were diligent about completing what we would normally consider moderate exercise (jogging, weight lifting, swimming, skating), but they were also much, much more active with the rest of their day.

Ever heard that regular exercise increases your energy levels? 

Curious about how many calories you’re burning when you’re making the bed? Check out this calorie calculator showing calories burned for nearly everything from playing the accordion to yoga.

Oh, and don’t forget about the spread office!  My quick-n-dirty calculation found that you can burn an additional 225 calories per day by spreading your office!

At the end of the day it’s just as it’s always been: weight gain = calories in – calories out.

To avoid gaining weight you either need to eat less, or “exercise” more.

Naturally, I recommend the latter.

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