Modernization can be both a blessing and a curse. Everything from the modern factory to the home has been upgraded with easy-to-use machines or appliances, making life easier in many ways, but there is a downside. Technology tends to reduce our opportunities to be physically active throughout the day, which has led to widespread weight gain and increased risk of developing chronic diseases.
Regular physical activity plays an important role in maintaining a healthy body weight and promoting good health. The more we move, the more muscles we use and the more calories we burn. Conversely, sitting creates a series of negative health outcomes and, if we are sedentary for an extended period of time, it could affect our health.
It’s important to note that even small amounts of physical activity can provide positive health benefits. While regular exercise is the best way to receive the health-promoting benefits of physical activity, it can often be a challenge to make time for a lengthy workout. If you can’t make it into the gym or run on your favorite trail, don’t despair. Brief periods of physical activity throughout the day can provide numerous health benefits. Here are eight ideas for increasing the opportunity to move throughout your day.
1. Make physical activity part of your daily commute to work. Granted, this may not be possible in all communities, but a number of state and local governments have been adding bike lanes and multi-use trails in an effort to promote cycling and walking as viable modes of transportation. While it may take a little longer and require some planning, walking or cycling to work helps you burn calories while those stuck in traffic are burning dollars in the form of wasted gasoline. For information on how to start bike commuting, check out the League of American Bicyclists.
2. Perform your errands by walking or cycling whenever possible. Think about the errands you make or the stores that you visit on a regular basis. How many of them are in a relatively close (within 2 to 3 miles) proximity to your home? Many Americans are investing in cargo bikes to be able to perform errands like dropping kids off or picking up groceries. Investing in a cargo bike or utility cart enables you to leave the car at home and get your daily dose of exercise, all while getting your errands done.
3. Use a standing desk at work or make time for frequent standing breaks throughout your day. Many companies are beginning to understand the negative health consequences of sitting for too long and are investing in stand-up desks for their employees, allowing them to be more active by working while standing up. Standing uses more muscles than sitting, so standing can help burn additional calories. If using a standing desk is not possible, take frequent standing breaks by standing to perform tasks like making phone calls, typing out a text or checking your email on a mobile device.
4. Don’t use your coffee break to simply go downstairs to the shop in your building. If possible, walk to another coffee shop one or two blocks away. Invite a colleague or two so that you can have a work-related conversation during the trip. Plus, if multiple people are going, you won’t stand out as someone who is trying to get out of doing work.
5. Take the stairs. As more organizations try to stem healthcare costs by promoting physical activity at work, they are beginning to allow employees to use the stairs that were once reserved only for emergencies. If you find that you are wasting time by waiting for elevators, ask your office or building manager if it is possible to have access to the stairs.
6. Park far from your destination. Parking far from the front of the store serves two benefits: you get more activity by walking across the parking lot to your destination and it is easier to leave when you are parked closer to the exit, which is a bonus when the stores are busy.
7. Stay active. How many times have you gone to a park and seen parents sitting on a bench hunched over their phone while their kids are breaking a sweat on the playground? If it’s not too crowded, climb on the toys with your kids. If you have a child at a sports practice, don’t just sit and watch, stroll around the playing field or along the sidelines.
8. Do chores. No, they’re not fun, but chores like cleaning the kitchen, carrying out the trash, mowing the lawn or collecting laundry are all opportunities to be more physically active.
Anything you do that increases the need for oxygen in your body can help you add physical activity to your day. It may not seem like taking the stairs or parking far away would make a big difference, but adding little bouts of physical activity to your day can help you burn additional calories and improve your health.