Regardless of your shape or size, physical activity has been shown to add years to your life and life to your years. But believe it or not, the benefits of physical activity are not restricted to exercise performed in the gym. In fact, one of the easiest ways to improve your health may be through increasing the amount of low intensity physical activity you perform throughout the day. For example, simply increasing the number of steps that you take each day is very likely to reduce your risk for diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Below are some practical ways that you can incorporate physical activity into your daily life. Try one or two of the options and once they’ve become part of your routine, try a couple more.
1. Take the stairs as often as possible.
This one is as simple as it sounds. If you have to go up two floors or less, opt for the stairs. The same goes if you have to go down three floors or less. Remember, every time you take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, you are making a decision that will positively affect your long term health.
2. Drink plenty of water.
If you are constantly sipping water throughout the day, you are going to have to use the restroom at least once an hour. Every time you have to go to the bathroom, you have a guilt-free excuse to go for a 5-minute walk to the restroom and back. It’s easy to forget to take a 5-minute walk-break every hour, but it’s impossible to forget to go bathroom!
*Added bonus – staying well hydrated may also reduce feelings of hunger so this is really a win-win.
3. Park as far from the front door as possible.
Another simple but effective tactic. Whether you’re at the mall, work or school, parking the car at the edge of the parking lot forces you to walk just a little bit further than you are used to. It will only add a few seconds to your trip, but if you do it everyday it could add years to your life.
*Added bonus – less chance of getting dinged by shopping carts and bad drivers.
4. Clean your home regularly.
Most people don’t realize what a good workout cleaning can be, especially if you have a large home. Cleaning involves plenty of walking, lifting, and stretching – all of which are very good for your body. Washing dishes by hand can also be an easy way to burn a few extra calories.
5. Gardening and yard work.
Yard work is great because not only does it increase your physical activity, it also gives you an excuse to be outside. Pulling weeds, mowing the lawn, trimming the hedge and raking leaves are all very physically taxing and like cleaning, they use a range of muscle groups.
6. Disconnect your cable for the summer.
Time spent watching TV is an independent predictor of disease, especially for kids. It’s not surprising when you think about it – the only time that most kids aren’t moving around is when they’re sitting in front of the TV. Get rid of the cable and suddenly you’ve got one less reason to spend your days sitting on the couch.
7. Buy a pedometer.
Pedometers are beeper-sized gadgets that count the number of steps that you take each day. They are a terrific way to measure the amount of physical activity you are getting and can also serve as a great motivator to make the decision to walk whenever possible. Aim for at least 10,000 steps each day. However, any increase you make is likely to bring health benefits, so don’t feel bad if you can’t get up to 10,000 right away.
8. Use active transportation.
Walking, roller blading, and biking are all great ways to get around, and they often take a lot less time than you’d expect.
9. Take a walk during lunch.
In an ideal world, we would all have 45 minutes for a relaxed lunch. If you happen to enjoy this luxury, consider taking half your lunch break to go for a walk either alone or with someone else you work with. It will help wake you up for the afternoon as well as giving you a chance to chat with your co-workers.
10. Go for a family walk after dinner.
It’s a great chance to spend some time together, enjoy the outdoors and get some exercise all at the same time.
Disclaimer: While the activities suggested are all low to moderate intensity, speak to your physician if you have any health concerns before increasing your physical activity levels. The information here should be used as a general guide only, and should not be construed as specific medical advice.