This article previously appeared on February 28, 2017.
Exercise without effort. Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? OK, well maybe I’ll rephrase that slightly to “exercise with minimal effort.” Either way, embrace this change of perspective and you’ll be well on your way to a leaner, stronger you.
Today I’ve got 5 easy exercise add-ins that you don’t even have to think about. Get into the habit of doing them, and they’ll become instinctive. See, one thing that can be said unanimously when it comes to exercise is that many of us simply struggle to find the time. We seem to think of exercise as this separate activity that we need to schedule into our daily routine. Of course, this is true for, say, a dance class or a hike. But what about movement that can be done during the “dead time” we have throughout the day?
“Dead time” is the term I use to refer to time that could be spent multi-tasking. It’s while waiting for something else or while doing another activity. I’m a firm believer in mindfulness and thus not overwhelming yourself with doing a million things at once. But, if there’s the option to add in a little movement during the few minutes you’d otherwise be stationary and in waiting, surely that can only be a good thing? This is particularly the case for those who lead a more sedentary working life such as that behind a desk or counter. Any movement that you can add in is highly beneficial.
So what could you start doing today? These are 5 things that are listed in alphabetical order from A-E to help you remember them. They won’t cost a cent, don’t require you finding an extra hour slot in your day, and you won’t need a membership or any special attire. They are simple suggestions for how to do life slightly differently; this is a way of getting the blood flowing.
- Abs first. If you spend a lot of your day sitting at a desk, make a conscious effort to spend 5 minutes of every hour focusing on your posture and core strength. Sit with your back straight and resting against the seat back. Then, draw the navel into the spine. That’s it! You’ll be surprised at the effect this has if done regularly. The good news is that your work won’t be disrupted, your boss won’t notice, and if anything it’ll have the added bonus of bringing your awareness back to the present moment and improve your mindfulness. Another time to put this to use is when stuck in traffic if you’re a driver, or on a bus or train.
- Be a Tree. In yoga, the tree pose is wonderful for improving balance, posture, and concentration as well as strengthening the spinal column and legs. Next time you’re waiting for the photocopier to do its thing or the microwave to finish heating up your lunch, why not give it a try? You might get one or two strange glances, but more likely than not you’ll soon spot others adopting the habit, too!
- Calf lifts. While at the stove-top stirring whatever delicious Peaceful Dumpling recipe you’re making, squeeze in as many calf lifts as you can. Arguably the most simple exercise known to man (or “hungry woman” as I always feel at the time), place both feet together and repeatedly lift your heels off the floor. This will strengthen your lower legs and improve tone. Come on, you really have no excuse not to!
- Do your squats. Call me crazy, but if you can do exercise while brushing your teeth in the morning, surely that’s nothing if not genius multi-tasking? I once read an article years ago about a leg model who swore by doing squats while brushing her teeth morning and night. It stuck with me, as you might be able to tell. If it works for a leg model, it can certainly work for me! To do this, perform wide-legged squats repeatedly while brushing until you feel that familiar pre-perspiration warm creep in.
- Every step counts. Next time you’re faced with the choice between riding the elevator or taking the stairs, encourage yourself to go with the latter. It might add on a moment or two to the journey, but you’ve at least added in a great full-body workout during the process. You could also incorporate this when visiting the grocery store in your car. Force yourself to park at the back of the lot and you’ve added in a precious few extra steps to your daily routine.
With so many of us more sedentary than we’ve ever been due to desk-based jobs, it’s crucial to incorporate movement into the mix. Recent evidence has shown that sitting down all day can accelerate DNA aging. Do yourself a favor and hold onto your youth for as long as you can! Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
What are your favorite ways of keeping active throughout the day? Do you have any ninja exercises you do at the desk?
Also by Kat: 6 Months a Vegan: What I’ve Learned So Far
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