We all know that exercising and staying active is good for us, but are we doomed to bad health and chronic illness if we don’t have time to go to the gym? In today’s world of supersonic speed, where we fill every minute of every day with activities, this is a valid question to ask. Thankfully, for all you busy folks out there (myself included), the answer is no.
I began writing my book Thrive: An environmentally conscious lifestyle guide to better health and true wealth in part because I wanted to explain that we need to intentionally dedicate time towards physical activity. Our modern lifestyle has become so much more sedentary than our bodies are used to. Many of us sit around all day doing work of some sort, leaving little to no extra time to exercise our bodies. Unfortunately, inactivity is a key risk factor for chronic illness and deep vein thrombosis, which means that we need to become more active no matter what our daily routines look like.
While spending hours every week at the gym certainly can help keep our bodies fit, the reality is that we don’t always have the time or ability to do so. If this sounds like your life, don’t fret; we can obtain similar health benefits by incorporating more physical activity into our existing routines as well.
Here are 5 easy ways you can more effortlessly become more active:
1. Take the stairs whenever possible.
Instead of taking elevators in your office building or apartment, take the stairs instead! If you live on a high floor, take a few flights of stairs first, and then hop in the elevator if needed. Walking up and down stairs is an easy way to strengthen your leg (and butt) muscles. It’s also a quick way to improve your blood circulation. You’re still going to reach where you want to go, but you will boost your physical health while doing so!
2. Obtain a height-adjustable desk if possible.
If you already have a height-adjustable desk at your office, put it to use! Switch between sitting and standing to work every half an hour. Or, if you work from home, switch between sitting at your desk and standing by your bar counter to work. If neither of these are practical for you, just make sure you take frequent stretch breaks and even incorporate some leg exercises at your desk (see tip #5).
3. Choose to carry grocery baskets rather than to use carts.
If you’re at a supermarket for a light to medium load of groceries, grab a basket instead of a cart. Arm curls? Oblique exercises? Shoulder rolls? Why not casually try these exercises with your grocery basket or shopping bags as you wander around the store?
4. Avoid short cuts.
If you plan on walking (or biking) somewhere, leave an extra 10-15 minutes early and take a longer route to your destination. Since you already planned on walking, anyway, sparing an extra 10-15 minutes to increase your walking distance can be a really efficient way of improving your cardio health. You can even speed-walk a few blocks to work up your heart rate. If you do so for more than 10 minutes, that would be considered a legitimate cardio exercise.
5. Avoid being in any one position for too long.
No matter how good of a posture you have, sitting or standing in the same position for prolonged periods of time can still strain your body and contribute to poor blood flow. If you are forced to sit at a desk for long hours at a time, tap your feet every so often, squeeze your butt to work your glutes, extend your legs forward and then curl them in, squat discreetly, lifting your butt just off of your chair (while looking like you’re still sitting) to work your leg muscles, and so on. Meanwhile, if you’re forced to stand in the same place for a long time (e.g., in line for something, for a standing job, etc.), shift your weight between your two feet and between the balls of your feet to your toes. Do some discreet, mini-squats, some feet rocks, and practically any exercise/movement you can do while standing.
One of the primary goals of Thrive was to focus on how we, as individuals, can take action right away to achieve better health (for ourselves and our planet). While I was writing, I realized the best way for us to do this is through first examining our individual lifestyles, and then reshaping our thought processes, habits, and decisions little by little.
So just remember: The key to boosting your health through physical activity is to work your muscles and move your body as much as possible. No matter how busy yet sedentary your lifestyle may be, you can still become more active by creatively incorporating more movement into your existing routine. : )
What are your favorite ways to be active during a busy day?
Also by K. Chayne: 5 Steps to a Sustainable, Minimalist Wardrobe
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Photo: Justin Jay Photography