Making time for regular exercise can be a challenge. However, according to a recent study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (2011; doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e31821e4ff2), even minor bouts of physical activity can improve cardiorespiratory fitness.

Researchers from Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, wanted to determine whether “incidental physical activity,” or acute bouts of movement, is associated with cardiorespiratory fitness. In the study, 135 “abdominally obese” men and women were fitted with accelerometry devices to determine their activity levels over 7 days. The information was then filtered into two categories: duration (minutes per day) and intensity (counts per minute). Not surprisingly, individuals who racked up more time and intensity engaging in incidental physical activity on a daily basis were positively associated with cardiorespiratory fitness.

Do you have trouble making the time for a regular exercise routine? Here are ways to up physical activity levels with these tips from Nicole Pizzi, MPH, assistant fitness program manager at Harvard University:

  • Park as far away from your workplace entrance as practicable. Purposely leave something of importance in the car, so you are forced to return to retrieve it at lunchtime.
  • Set up a Facebook group to invite co-workers to join you for a daily walk around the exterior of the workplace or up and down the staircase.
  • If you have a dog, routinely take the animal for a walk as soon as you arrive home.
  • If you work in an office, deliver messages to co-workers in person instead of communicating via e-mail or phone.
  • If you work in a building with multiple floors, use a restroom on a different floor than your own.