Benefits of Light Exercise

Getting motivated to exercise after a prolonged winter is hard.

This has been a particularly difficult year in the United States, as we’re experiencing another cold snap in April which is unusual in the Southeast. Engaging in outdoor activity is discouraging when you have to bundle up like it’s the middle of winter.

There are ways to work with the cold weather and kick-start exercising even on a minimal level to help restart those resolutions. Light exercise tends to be discounted in favor of moderate or vigorous exercise, but it does have its health benefits if that’s all you can do.

Taking a few moments to shake up the daily routine, no matter your time or fitness level can go a long way towards becoming healthier.

The Benefits of Light Exercise

Science backs up the benefits of light exercise: even activities such as cleaning a house, doing Wii-fit, or gardening have health benefits. Experts recommend doing 150-minutes per week of light-to-moderate exercise, which works out to be about 20 minutes per day. While it might be easier to do the 20 minutes all at once, sometimes breaking it down into manageable 5-minute intervals works well too.

Light exercise works as a natural mood and energy booster, along with numerous other health benefits. Stressed? Take a few moments to stretch at your desk or walk up to get some water from upstairs. The activity can help lower stress levels:

Psychologists studying how exercise relieves anxiety and depression suggest that a 10-minute walk may be just as good as a 45-minute workout. Some studies show that exercise can work quickly to elevate depressed mood in many people. Although the effects may be temporary, they demonstrate that a brisk walk or other simple activity can deliver several hours of relief, similar to taking an aspirin for a headache. – “Exercise for Stress and Anxiety,” ADAA

If you are like me and concerned about mental acuity, light exercise can boost brain health and memory. It is particularly helpful in reducing inflammation and some triggers for Alzeheimers.

Sitting at a desk job? Taking a few minutes to stand or walk from sitting can have long-term benefits as sitting for vast stretches of the day is linked to mental health concerns, heart disease, and disability. Even with daily vigorous exercise sitting for too long can be detrimental to your health.


When you don’t have the time

Light exercise is great, but what if it’s difficult to squeeze in the time? How do you fit 20 minutes into your daily schedule?

Here are some simple tips to incorporate activity into what you already do every day (more ideas found here):

  1. Instead of sitting at your desk, consider standing or getting a standing desk
  2. If you are capable, park farther away from a store’s front entrance
  3. Walk around during phone calls to stay moving
  4. If you like to watch tv, do some light stretching while sitting on the couch
  5. Drink more water to walk to the bathroom more often
  6. Carry light-weights and do minor lifts while walking or driving
  7. Find a location with several shops in close proximity. Park in a centrally located area and walk to each one instead of driving between them
  8. Find more active video games to play or move around while playing your normal video games
  9. Choose the stairs to get where you need to go (if possible)
  10. Walk to a local restaurant or shop instead of driving there

Physical Capabilities

For those of us with an autoimmune/chronic disease that is draining, finding time to incorporate physical activity can be particularly challenging when walking itself is a challenge.

There are many resources available for people with MS and other fatigue based diseases that can help you incorporate exercise depending on your capabilities. These are the most important things to keep in mind:

  • Know your limits, do not try to push beyond what you are capable if you are alone
  • Stay cool and hydrated. MS symptoms can exacerbate if you overheat or dehydrate
  • Be okay with altering exercise for the day if energy or ability levels vary, staying active in simple ways go far to maintain motivation levels
  • Speak with a healthcare professional about your abilities and suggestions. You may be able to meet with a specialist who can tailor some exercises for you
  • Exercise where you are most comfortable. Even doing some activity in front of the TV can be enough – remember – light exercise is key!

Whether you don’t have the time or struggling through an exacerbation, there are ways to simply add exercise into your daily routine to help boost your health. The hope is to start small so you can add more and more vigorous activity as you go along. On Wednesday I will be discussing starting an exercise regimen that is more intensive.

What do you do to stay active? How has it helped you overall? Write your thoughts in the comments below.


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