Back in the day, daily activities were all our ancestors needed to stay fit and healthy. They were constantly walking, hunting, gathering, or working. Physical labor was ingrained into almost everything they did.
In today’s age of desk jobs and easy transportation, physical activity is not nearly as prevalent unless one makes a conscious effort to incorporate it into their life.
That being said, slaving at the gym is not the only way to fit exercise into your routine. Don’t get me wrong; I do love ellipticals and Zumba classes. But I also appreciate natural exercise- especially when I don’t have a large chunk of time to commit to exercising.
If you’re low on time, don’t fret. Studies show that spreading small bouts of activity throughout the day is just as effective as tackling your workout all at once. Here are some quick and simple ways to improve strength and cardiovascular health- no gym required.
When you wake up: Start with some stretching. Stretching not only loosens up your muscles. It also increases joint range-of-motion and blood circulation. It can even boost your energy- perfect for those days when you really don’t want to wake up.
As you get ready: Dance a little. As you get dressed, brush your teeth, or dry your hair. Just turn on some music and move around. I do this all the time as I get myself together in the mornings. Judge me if you want, but I think it’s so much fun. Dancing relieves stress, releases endorphins, and gets me pumped up for my day. I don’t even realize that I’m exercising.
Once you’re at work/school/wherever your day may take you: Park far away. Do you really have to take the spot right in front of the door? Instead, try parking a little farther away and walking. This is an easy way to incorporate cardio into your day and will also reduce the unnecessary stress that comes with grabbing the best parking spot.
On your way in: take the stairs. It’s a great way to tone your legs/glutes and get your heart rate up. Plus, it can get you to your destination quicker. Often times, I’ll already be upstairs while other people are still waiting for the elevator.
At your destination: Utilize lunch breaks. Rather than sitting and eating for an hour, use your break as an opportunity to get active. Walk or bike to a restaurant instead of driving. Squeeze in a yoga class during the break and eat once your back at your desk. Maybe all you have time for are a few pushups or squats before you get back to business. Every little bit counts so do what you can.
Take it a step further: Replace your desk. Sitting too much is associated with a number of health risks such as heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Luckily, there are plenty of alternatives on the market today. If you have a job that requires lots of sitting, you might want to consider investing in a new desk. Standing desks are all the rage now. They are desks raised up to about waist-height that you can stand at rather than sit at. (For more info, read this article.) There are even desks with treadmills attached so that you can walk while you work! (Found here.)
With your friends: Schedule active meet-ups. Sure you could go to a coffee shop to chat. But couldn’t you also converse while paddling a kayak? Or strolling through the park? Or taking some dance lessons? You might find that these things are more fun anyway. Shared memories such as these can also lead to stronger friendships.
Out and about: Keep a pair of sneakers in your car. You never know when your plans will change and you suddenly have time to kill. This can provide the perfect opportunity to fit in exercise. Sometimes when my classes let out early, I’ll head to the local trail to walk a bit before I have to go back to school. Even 10 minutes moving can make a world of difference. If I don’t have the time or opportunity to get to the park, it’s not the end of the world. But I do love to go when I can.
When you’re at home: Work strength training into leisure time. Leg lifts or crunches are simple exercises to do while watching TV. Planks, jumping jacks, or lunges are also viable options. This technique is nice because it works activity into a time when you would be otherwise be sedentary. And maybe your favorite show will even distract you from your burning muscles.
Being too busy to exercise can no longer be an excuse because there are so many ways to do it without much effort at all. Feel free to adopt one (or all) of these tips into your life- and maybe come up with some yourself!
Photo: Donatopirolo; Go Interactive Wellness