You want to be more physically active, but how do you find the time? And just how much activity do you have to do?
The number one reason people are not more active is time. We now know that accumulating short bouts of activity throughout the day to reach a total of 30 minutes most days a week provides comparable benefits to completing 30 minutes of activity all at once. There are many ways to increase your physical activity level by simply putting a twist on activities you already complete daily.
Here are some examples of how to boost your fitness when at home, work, traveling, running errands, and caring for children.
Nothing beats increasing your physical activity level at home. No time wasted traveling to a gym and you can wear and look however you want! Many typical home activities result in an increased heart rate and strength building. Some examples include mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, vacuuming, mopping, unloading the car, carrying groceries, and taking out the trash. Now take these everyday activities and add a little something extra. How about lunges while you vacuum, arm curls while carry your grocery bags, calf raises while brushing your teeth, and actually squatting when accessing bottom shelves? Do you log more hours than you care to admit in front of the TV? Take advantage of the commercial breaks to do 3 minutes of sit-ups or push-ups.
At the Office
Start your day by arriving at work a few minutes early so you have time to park your car farther away or if you take the bus, get off early and walk the last couple blocks. This is a simple way to add 10-15 minutes of activity to your day while also giving you some much needed time to yourself. Opt for the stairs instead of the elevator to reach your office. Be sure to take two 15 minute breaks during an eight hour work day. Use your break time to boost your fitness level by stretching or taking a walk around the building. If time gets away from you, schedule your computer to provide a break time reminder. Short breaks for activity throughout your work day have the added benefit of clearing your mind, boosting your energy, and making your work time more productive. Other ways to increase your activity level at work include finding a longer route to the bathroom or coffee machine and walking to a co-workers office versus reaching for the phone. A pedometer is a great tool for monitoring your activity when at the office. You can set goals to try to increase the number of steps you walk each day to improve your fitness level.
On the Road
Traveling does not mean your fitness goals have to halt during your time on the road. There are simple activities that will increase your activity level and help decrease the discomforts that often accompany long periods on the road. When driving, schedule breaks every two to three hours to stop, stretch, and take a brisk walk around a roadside park. When behind the wheel, shift around as much as possible to assist circulation and ease stiffness. Traveling by plane or train means limited space, but you can stretch your arms and neck by reaching towards the luggage rack and completing shoulder/neck rolls in your seat. Get up every hour for a short walk to the restroom to stretch your legs. When navigating the airport choose the stairs and walk as much as possible versus using moving walkways, escalators, and elevators.
Travel does mean you leave behind your gym or treadmill, but you can pack some comfy shoes and take a walk just about anywhere. A convenient fitness tool for traveling is a resistance band. This piece of equipment takes up minimal space and provides a way to work on your flexibility and strength when your only option is your hotel room. Many hotels have fitness rooms or swimming pools where you can stick with a fitness routine.
Fitness with Children
Has a new little one joined your family? Increase your activity by walking to soothe your infant or sit on the floor and rock back and forth while holding your infant instead of rocking in a rocker. Most little ones love the visual stimulation of the outdoors. Get a carrier and strap on your infant for a walk around the neighborhood. There are many options now for strollers and bike trailers that provide a variety of activity options. If finances are limited, improvise with baby overhead presses and arm curls. As you little one gains weight you will gain improved arm and shoulder strength. Turn on the tunes and dance around the living room with your baby, you may even be rewarded with some giggles.
Has your child hit the “do it myself” stage? At this point the intensity of your activity may decrease as you slow down for your child to keep pace with you. This is a good time to look into a fitness tradeoff with other moms in your neighborhood. Swap watching the kids while you each can get a much needed break and some physical activity. If you have slim pickings for another support mom, you will continue to get fitness benefits from all the bending, lifting, carrying, and putting down that a young child demands. As your child grows, they will be able to participate in more physical activities, such as fun games like “Mother May I?” and “Red Light, Green Light”. Get creative and make up a scavenger hunt that includes a walk around the neighborhood (search for a red car, a white flower, a green house, etc.). Not feeling creative, head to the park for playtime while you walk laps around the playground. Your child needs the activity just as much as you do.
There are even little ways to boost your activity level when running errands. When you go to the mall or grocery store don’t circle the lot for the closest parking space, park farther away and take advantage of those extra steps to reach your destination. Do you live near the bank or post office? Leave the car parked and take a walk or ride your bike. When driving to the school, park a few blocks from the school and walk with your children the rest of the way. By doing this you have the added bonus of avoiding the traffic jam of school buses and parents dropping off students, it might even take less time. Add extra steps at the mall by being a mall walker and complete a lap before you start your shopping. Once again, take the stairs instead of the escalator.
Achieving your fitness goals does not require a fancy gym membership or expensive exercise machine. A little creativity goes a long ways. For more everyday activity tips check out Fitting in Fitness: Hundreds of Simple Ways to Put More Physical Activity into Your Life by the American Heart Association. Stick with an increased fitness level and you’ll reap the rewards of more energy, weight management, heart and bone health, and an overall improved quality of life. Now get moving!