Exploring the Benefits of Spontaneous Physical Activity
By Sheri R. Colberg
You’ve probably heard about the recent reports revealing just how dangerous it is to be sedentary. Simply sitting for too long at one time is now a recognized health hazard that everyone should be aware of. But if you suffer from diabetes or prediabetes, a sedentary lifestyle is particularly dangerous. Getting regular exercise and movement is one of the most important things you can do to keep your blood glucose under control, maintain a healthy body weight, and reduce your risk of developing complications related to diabetes.
Unfortunately, most people naturally try to do as little physical activity as possible in their day-to-day lives. How many times have you driven to a store and then circled around the parking lot or waited a long time to find a spot close to the door rather than just parking farther away and walking? When you do that, you’re missing out on a great opportunity for spontaneous physical activity, or SPA.
Spontaneous physical activity or “SPA time” is exactly what it sounds like. It consists of taking a dozen extra steps here and there, which can add up to a lot of calories burned over the course of the day, week, and year. SPA can happen when you get a few more steps by parking farther away or when you stand up or walk around while talking on the phone instead of sitting down. Doing anything—even fidgeting—makes your metabolism work better compared to sitting continuously for long periods of time.
If you have diabetes, adding in more daily movement in any way possible is likely to benefit your life in countless ways. If you get and stay more active every day by doing more SPA, you undoubtedly enhance and maintain your overall health, vitality, and youthful vigor more effectively. Doing easier activities like standing or walking around—even if they don’t make you break a sweat—uses up calories and helps you keep your weight stable.
Here’s one important thing to keep in mind: you won’t get as fit from doing most SPA activities like these, and SPA time alone is not adequate to fulfill your exercise requirements. (You’ll likely need to do both more daily SPA and some cardio, resistance, or other exercise training to keep fit with diabetes or prediabetes.) But when matched for number of calories burned, doing easy or moderate spontaneous activities for more total time during the day works as well for improving your blood glucose and your aerobic capacity as doing harder, planned exercise for less time does.
Easy activities like cleaning, washing dishes, grocery shopping, gardening, playing with your kids or grandkids, walking the dog, standing, or any other activity can help lower your blood glucose and keep you more fit and active. Keep reading to learn some easy ways to incorporate more SPA time into your day:
- Pace or stand while talking on the phone instead of sitting.
- Always take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator.
- Window shop at the nearest mall.
- Wash your car by hand (and wax it, too).
- Put on some music and dance.
- Set up a basketball net in your driveway and shoot some hoops.
- Walk to a nearby school when school is out of session and use its playground equipment.
- Hide the remotes for the TV, stereo, and other devices so you have to get up to adjust the settings.
- Walk in place, dance, move around, or even just stand up while watching TV—at least during the commercials.
- Limit your TV and home computer use to no more than two hours per day. If you can’t get down to that little, try lowering your current at-home screen time by 30 minutes to start.
Remember, when it comes to better managing your diabetes, all movement counts. SPA time is an easy way to get moving every day, so be sure to keep it going strong as a manageable, and low-impact addition to your fitness routine. Have fun with it, be creative, and above all, enjoy becoming a healthier and more active you.