There is a trendy new saying ‘sitting is the new smoking’. Smoking is obviously dangerous to our health. What has recently been discovered is how dangerous excessive sitting is, also known as having a sedentary lifestyle. Think about yourself…how many hours do you personally spend sitting on an average day? Do you sit in a vehicle on your way to work? How long is that commute? How much of your workday is spent sitting at a desk? What do you do when you get home from work? Do you sit in front of the TV? On days off work are you going to the movies or on the couch watching your favorite sporting events? That number will obviously differ wildly from person to person, but for most of us, the number of hours we spend sitting is dangerously high. All that sitting comes with major health consequences, like an increased risk for stroke, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, obesity, cancer, and depression.
You may be thinking, “But I exercise 6 days a week, so I’m not sedentary”. That dedication is impressive; your mind and body thank you. Unfortunately those hours spent exercising are only part of the solution. Adding in more day to day physical activity is still important, even if you exercise most days of the week.
Think about it this way…1 week has 168 hours and approximately 112 of those hours are spent awake. Subtract 6 hours of exercise a week and that leaves 106 hours that you spend awake, not exercising. How many of those hours did you calculate that you spend sitting on an average day? Most everyone has some room for improvement. Physical activity is just movement, or being active. Usually this movement is low intensity, but it could be moderate, or even vigorous. This movement is not considered exercise, it is not structured, and it is not done with the goal to improve strength or cardiovascular health. Physical activity includes the everyday movement you probably don’t even think about, such as vacuuming, pacing while you take a phone call, or playing catch with your dog. Most everyone can benefit from adding more movement into your everyday lifestyle. Here are some ideas on how to do that:
Plan active meet ups
Instead of going out to dinner or going to a movie with your significant other or friends, plan an active date. It could be as simple as biking around your neighborhood, exploring a nearby town on foot, or walking at a park. It could also be something more adventurous like a ski trip or hiking.
Get a fitness tracker
Activity trackers such as a Fitbit or Jawbone can be great motivators to move more. They track the number of steps you take and some even track flights of stairs. Encourage your friends, family, or coworkers to challenge each other to the most steps. Most activity trackers have online sites where you can see each other’s progress. A good goal is 10,000 steps per day, which is roughly 5 miles.
Think muscle over motor
There are a lot of ideas that fall under this category. Anytime you use some sort of tool with goal to make your life easier in a physically manner, then stop and try it the old fashioned way. For example, use a rake instead of a leaf blower, a snow shovel instead of a snow blower, a push lawn mower instead of a riding lawn mower. Take the stairs instead of an elevator, or walk instead of drive. Hand wash your car instead of go through the car wash. Even tasks like handwashing dishes instead of using a dishwasher add movement into your day.
Stretch before bed
The benefits of stretching before bed are twofold. It’s a simple way to add movement into your day. Also, spending even five minutes doing some gentle stretches before bed can help you relax, which will improve your sleep.
Drink more water
Not only could most people benefit from drinking more water, but it will also force you to get up and walk to the bathroom more often!
Make tidying up into a game
When you are watching TV, use commercial breaks to your advantage. Use the breaks to quickly tidy up or clean as much as you can in that very short amount of time. Another similar idea is to set a timer (I usually do 20 minutes) and hurry to complete as much housework as you can possibly do in that amount of time.
Utilize small opportunities
Make the most of the times throughout your day that you spend waiting. Instead of just standing while in line at the store do calf raises, or march in place while pumping gas. Do pushups against the counter while you wait for the microwave to stop. Look for other opportunities you may have throughout the day and find ways to fill those small gaps with some easy activity.
Take advantage of your guilty pleasures
If you have a favorite podcast or audiobook then make a rule to yourself that you can only listen to it while doing something active. Try listening while you clean your house or are out on a walk. You could also tell yourself that you can only watch your favorite TV show while bouncing on an exercise ball or walking in place.