Regular physical exercise offers many benefits, such as weight management, enhanced mood, higher energy levels, better sleep, and a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Yet, going to the gym often ends up on the back burner when you have a million things on your to-do list. Here are six simple ways to incorporate more activity and movement into your daily life when you don’t have time to exercise.
Walking offers one of the easiest ways to stay active without actually “exercising.” From parking your car away from the store entrance to walking your children to school every day, you can easily find many ways to keep moving throughout your day. Here are a few more ideas to consider:
- Instead of sitting around the television after dinner, go for an evening walk with your family. Keep the kids engaged by pointing out interesting objects along the way or turn the walk into a scavenger hunt by asking them to spot a bird, a red flower, and so on.
- Use a pedometer or fitness tracker to keep track of your daily steps for some added motivation. Aim for at least 7,000 to 8,000 steps a day to stay healthy.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator at work.
- Don’t sit and talk. When you’re on the phone with your mom or a business associate, get up and walk around the room.
If you often work for hours at a stretch, set an alarm for every 50 minutes to remind you to get up and walk for five minutes.
Stand While You Work
Sitting is the new smoking. From heart problems to an increased risk of developing different types of cancer, research links sedentary behavior with many potential health concerns. That’s why companies like Apple now provide employees with standing desks. Most of these desks allow you to adjust the height to accommodate sitting or standing, as needed. While standing for your entire workday may seem a bit much and could potentially lead to other health concerns, such as back pain, standing for just 30 minutes every hour can prove beneficial to your health. Standing also burns an extra 0.15 calories per minute, on average, compared to sitting. While this may not be enough to help you lose weight, it could help you keep your weight under control.
Swap Your Chair for an Exercise Ball
Sitting on an exercise ball — also called a yoga or stability ball — requires you to constantly engage your abdominal muscles to remain upright. This can help you strengthen your core and improve your balance and posture without actually working out. However, sitting on a ball for eight hours comes with several drawbacks. Because a stability ball lacks armrests and a back support, it may not fully support your upper body. That lack of support could cause concern among people with back pain. You also may find it difficult to fully focus on work if you feel uncomfortable or worry the ball will roll away. If these issues don’t faze you, try switching your desk chair with an exercise ball for short periods of time to see if it works for you. Check out this overview of the pros and cons of stability balls, which also provides some tips on how to use them for the best results.
Clean Your House
Here’s one more reason to keep your house clean and free of clutter. A recent study found that 30 minutes of daily physical activity — even if it involves something as mundane as housework — can provide potential health benefits like an extended lifespan and fewer illnesses. In fact, WeightWatchers claims everyday chores like sweeping, mopping, and making beds can burn as much as 250 calories per hour, depending on your weight and the intensity of the work. If you don’t have time to hit the gym today, go ahead and bring out the vacuum cleaner instead.
Cook at Home
Home-cooked meals offer a healthier and cheaper option than takeout. But, did you know that activities like chopping vegetables and lifting light loads also can help you burn as much as 150 calories per hour? Moreover, cooking at home means you also have to clean up. Washing the dishes by hand or loading the dishwasher offer more ways to get some “exercise” every day.
Use the Time You Have Creatively
You may not have an hour to set aside to go to the gym, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have 10 minutes right now for a brisk walk. Creatively using the little pockets of time you have each day can help you stay more active. Here are a few examples:
- Do a set of squats while you wait for the pasta water to boil.
- If you plan to hang out with your girlfriends Friday night, cross both fitness and socializing off your to-do list by having everyone sign up for a Zumba® class.
- Do some pushups while you watch your favorite television show or get a jump rope to squeeze in an easy, but effective workout during commercial breaks.
- Go the playground with the kids. You may already do this every day, but, instead of sitting on the bench waiting for them to finish, try joining them in a light game of tag or catch to get your heart pumping.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t exercise at all. But, until you find the time and resources for regular workouts, these tips can help you stay active and in shape.