We all know the risks of a sedentary lifestyle, and we all know that exercise has a multitude of benefits. Exercise can reduce your chances of developing major chronic illnesses such as heart disease or diabetes. It can also reduce the impact of these diseases if you have already developed them. Better yet, it can help you live longer.
Despite the risks of inactivity, though, very few Americans actually incorporate exercise into their daily routines. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), less than ¼ of US adults met weekly physical activity recommendations in 2018. The problem for many of us is time. We just can't seem to find enough of it in our schedules.
However, the good news is that even a tiny amount of exercise can have an impact. One study demonstrated that just two minutes of activity for every hour of sitting could reduce your risk of dying by 33 per cent. Another study suggested that the effects of brief bursts of exercise can accumulate into a big payoff when it comes to your health.
Here are just a few small, simple ways you can squeeze some of those brief bursts of valuable exercise into your day.
1. Incorporate A Quick Routine Before Work
Start your day with some stretches as soon you get out of bed. Consider getting up a few minutes earlier to allow yourself time to do a short yoga routine or pull out a skipping rope and skip for five minutes. A mini-workout of 15 to 30 squats, 10 to 25 push-ups and running in place for thirty seconds will also take no more than five minutes of your morning prep time.
2. Change Up Your Commute
Walk or bike to work. If you have the time, take the scenic route on the way home. If you use public transit, get off at an earlier stop and walk the rest of the way. If you work from home, consider taking a walk, running or biking to get your morning coffee. And, always opt for the stairs when you can.
3. Move While You Work
Turn your next team conference into a walking meeting or a stand-up meeting. Use a headset and pace the room during your next phone call. Set your phone alarm to alert you to take a quick stretch break or a brief walk every twenty to thirty minutes. These practices have the added bonus of giving your eyes a brief respite from your screen. You can also try incorporating easy office stretches of chair yoga poses into your work routine. They can make a big difference whether you’re working from your kitchen table or a cubicle.
4. Turn Chores into a Mini-Workout
Carrying your laundry around, vacuuming and even making your bed and dusting can burn calories and keep you active. If you’re working from home, consider getting up to complete one task every thirty minutes or so. Add some music to make it a little more fun. To make this more of a benefit, strap on some weights to your arms or legs.
5. Lunch Time Body Breaks
Bring casual clothes to the workplace or simply slip into them if you work from home and get out for a lunchtime power walk or workout. Recruit co-workers or office mates to complete a month-long activity challenge with you or start a walking, aerobic or yoga lunch group.
6. Turn Cooking into Your New Routine
Time to make dinner? Turn on the music and launch into a dinner time dance party. If dancing isn’t your thing, do some standing push-ups while you wait for things to finish cooking. After dinner, shoot some hoops, go for a walk or take a family bike ride. Building healthy habits around something that happens every day, like making dinner, can be a great way to incorporate more activity into your routine.
7. Really “Run” Your Errands
If you need to go to the grocery store or pharmacy, consider walking rather than driving if it's feasible. If you have medical or other appointments, arrive ten minutes earlier and walk around the block while you wait for your appointment time. If you have to drive, consider parking in the farthest spot you can find and walk both to and from the store. Every little bit counts.
8. Move While Travelling
Travelling is an opportunity for you to get even more exercise into your routine. If you’re driving a long distance, stop the car several times to get out and go for a brisk walk or do a few stretches. At the airport, avoid the moving walkways and instead walk to your gate. Take the stairs rather than the escalator, and while you wait for your flight, take a few walks around the concourse. Book a hotel room on a low enough floor to walk a few flights so you can avoid taking the elevator.
9. Be a Multi-Tasker
Keep dumbbells at your desk to use while you read reports or make oral notes. Do the same while you watch TV. If you need to go to another office, use the photocopier or take the garbage out, take the long way around. Get those steps in when you can. Squeeze your buttocks while you ride the elevator to your office or up to your apartment. Do a face mask while you engage in a quick ab workout or a few yoga poses.
Sprinkle In Activity Throughout Your Day
The point isn’t to squeeze a workout into every spare minute you have. Start small. You have a lot more time than you think, and even a few minutes each day can help with your overall health and wellness. Even if you still can't seem to carve out larger amounts of time to head to the gym or do a dedicated workout, these achievable practices will make a big difference.