Extension News

Lighten Up Iowa: Make Lunch Time Recess Time

MyPyramid graphic


AMES, Iowa -- It's no secret that Iowans are not getting enough physical activity. More than half of all Iowans do not engage in 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five days a week according to the 2003 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. Treating your inner child to an active noon recess is a good way to change those numbers, suggests Ruth Litchfield, Iowa State University Extension nutrition specialist.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 recommends that adults engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate activity most days to prevent the risk of chronic disease, while 60 to 90 minutes of moderate activity most days are required to prevent weight gain.

Many individuals find that 60 to 90 minute recommendation daunting if not impossible, Litchfield said. It may be easier to think of physical activity in 10 to 15 minute increments.

She points out that the figure on the steps of the MyPyramid graphic represents progress toward that goal. Each of the six steps on the side of MyPyramid represents 10 to 15 minutes of activity.

The lunch hour is a good time to squeeze in one or two of the 10 to 15 minute activity segments, Litchfield said. One 20 to 30 minute walk meets about one-third of the daily physical activity recommendation. Walking before eating your lunch also may help curb your appetite.

After your walk, be sure to eat your lunch somewhere other than your desk. A study from the University of Arizona found that personal offices have higher levels of bacteria than the average toilet seat. Seventy percent of Americans regularly eat lunch at their desks, which is a feeding frenzy for bacteria.

Office surfaces with the most bacteria included the phone, desktop, water fountain handle, microwave door handle, and computer keyboard, respectively.  In addition to eating somewhere other than your desk, you may consider cleaning/disinfecting these key areas of the office on a regular basis.

Contacts :

Ruth Litchfield, Ph.D., Food Science and Human Nutrition, (515) 294-9484, litch@iastate.edu

Deborah Martinez, Coordinator of Lighten Up Iowa, (888) 777-8881, deborah@lightenupiowa.org 

Tim Lane, Iowa Department of Public Health, (515) 281-7833, tlane@idph.state.ia.us

Diane Nelson, Continuing Education and Communication Services, (515) 294-3178, dinelson@iastate.edu