Exercise combined with healthy eating are easily the two most important steps that you can take to improve your fitness and health. For many years, experts have recommended a minimum of 30 minutes at least 5 days a week for a total of 150 minutes of moderate exercise weekly. But for many of us, finding an available two and a half hours of free time to exercise is difficult if not impossible.
Luckily, more recent research suggests that we should focus on increasing our activity level gradually as even small amounts of exercise each week can produce big changes in our overall health and fitness. In short, any activity is better than none as it produces positive healthy changes.
Once you’re cleared by your family physician, it’s easy to get started with your new “exercise” program. Remember that you should always warm up your muscles and stretch briefly before increasing activity, and don’t forget to drink plenty of water no matter where you exercise.
Here are five creative ways to to get you off the couch and increase your activity level and fit fitness into your busy lifestyle:
- Start by walking. Walk to the grocery store, walk the dog, walk to work, to the bank, Post Office or Library. If the distance is too far to walk, once you arrive, park on the outer perimeter of the parking lot and walk, or park on the highest level of the parking garage and use the stairs. Work up to walking 10 or 20 minutes each day at a brisk pace and if you can’t, walk in 3-5 minute chunks.
- Clean house. Attack your “chores” and clean your house vigorously. Then cut the grass, or do laundry and perform all of these household duties with the intent of increasing your activity level and burning more calories. One simple approach is to complete tasks in less time each time you do them, by doing so, you will be increasing your intensity and activity level. You can easily burn an extra 300-400 calories by cleaning, vacuuming and straightening just one room daily. You can also set a timer for 20-30 minutes and work until it goes off, that’s an added 20-30 minutes of healthy activity without even thinking about it.
- Use the stairs. Avoid escalators and elevators, they are for lazy people, always use the stairs. Use the stairs at the mall, work or school, at work you can easily incorporate 3-5 minutes of healthy stair climbing exercise during your breaks. If the stairway is too short, go up, then back down and climb them again and again.
- Find your treadmill. Do you have a treadmill or stationary bike out in the garage gathering dust? Drag that equipment in front of your television so that you have to be using it in order to watch your favorite TV show. Get up and OFF the couch.
- Use your gaming system. Addicted to video games? Use your shiny game system for “exercise” with fun fitness programs from Wii Fit or Xbox Fitness. These programs require skill, agility and movement and are more like playing games than exercising!
Make activity fun and challenging and you will begin to look forward to your “exercise” sessions. Find fun and creative ways to move more and increase your activity level even for brief periods of 3-5 minutes – any activity is better than none!