If you think your daily life is too busy to include exercise, think again. One of the best things we can do for our overall health and well-being is to keep our bodies well-toned and well-tuned, and the sure-fire way to do that is to stay in motion.
Body motion is actually classified by the anatomical plane where it occurs. When you point and curl your toes, that is extension followed by its opposite, flexion. Reaching and bending are examples of angular motions. Doing wrist or shoulder circles involves a rotational motion. Raising and lowering the arms is called elevation and depression.
Most people don’t acknowledge the fact that most of us already perform all of the above exercises throughout a typical day – or we could.
Nobody needs a pricey gym membership or fancy work-out equipment to get fit and stay there. The world is our obstacle course – so to speak.
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis is what scientists call reaching up to get a can of soup from a high shelf or washing windows. Your body is in motion even though you aren’t technically exercising. But you can nudge that motion into out-and-out exercise easily, with a little mindfulness and planning.
The helpful folks over at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have provided a publication titled “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans – 2nd Edition” that gives sound advice on types and levels of activity for preschoolers, children, teens, adults, and seniors. Here’s the #1 tip for adults:
“Adults should move more and sit less throughout the day. Some physical activity is better than none. Adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity gain some health benefits.”
The HHS recommends that adults get 2-1/2 to 5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise or 1-1/4 to 2-1/2 hours of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity a week or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Aerobic exercise is best spread throughout the week.
In addition, according to the HHS guidelines, at least twice a week, adults “should also do muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity and that involve all major muscle groups.”
Have you ever seen drivers vie for the closest parking spaces outside the workout center? Does that strike you as a wee bit ironic, since people go there for exercise?
Get in the habit of parking further away from the front door of a business you intend to visit so you must walk in – when time and circumstances allow – even if it’s where you work. Moderate walks are great for pumping blood throughout the body and clearing the head.
Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Upstairs is more challenging than downstairs but both count as more activity than fidgeting in a small box with others facing the door, waiting to escape. Bonus points for bounding up the stairs two at a time.
You need to know that stair-step exercises promote strength, agility, and endurance. This activity is not designed for weight-loss:
[The body burns] “0.17 calories per stair climbed, and 0.05 calories per stair descended, according to one source I found. Given there are 12 steps in the average flight of stairs, heading up and then back down would burn you somewhere between 2.5 and 5 calories. So for instance, if you wanted to climb the stairs enough to burn the calories of a Snickers bar, you’d need to climb 122 or so flights.”
For the record, a Snickers bar has 122.4 calories.
Walking is better for weight loss, but again, general tone and cardiovascular health are the main objectives. A person who weighs 140 pounds walks off, on average, 7.6 calories a minute or 228 calories in 30 minutes.
For shedding pounds, running beats walking hands-down: our 140-pound individual almost doubles the calorie reduction from running with 13.2 calories each minute or 396 calories per half-hour run.
People who wear a pedometer that counts the number of steps taken become more aware of opportunities to add length and vigor to common tasks like shopping so getting one can help develop self-awareness.
At the grocery or big box store, walking the long aisles while pushing a metal cart at a steady rate burns much more energy than, say, sitting on the couch watching TV. Just try to avoid too much idling at the holiday displays.
Speaking of sitting on the couch, who says you can’t exercise there, too? Do shoulder lifts, neck rolls (ahhhhh), bend and flex your ankles and wrists, stand up and sit down, bend one knee to raise that leg and clap underneath it. You get the idea, so get creative. Avoid just sitting around unless you are truly relaxing or meditating.
Bond with your children and tone up by carrying them around. If you don’t have kids, substitute grocery bags. A rockin’ parent will nestle an offspring in one arm while slinging a sack of potatoes in the other.
Some gardening activities are quite vigorous. Digging with a shovel will work up a sweat. Be careful not to overdo outdoor work after a layoff or if just beginning because stooping and kneeling can become back-breaking hours later when the muscles cool down and contract.
Instead of walking your dog, why not pick up the pace by jogging or cycling? Both you and your furry friend will benefit.
Other daily activities burn calories while we aren’t even paying attention:
- Housecleaning (sweeping or vacuuming) – 150 calories per hour
- Cooking (chopping and washing) – 150 calories per hour
- Cleaning the car – 270 calories per hour
- Snow shoveling – 360 (or more) calories per hour
If you want to incorporate some basic exercises into your daily routine, that is awesome. Here are five daily stay-fit activities:
- Walk-out push-up: “Start standing with your feet about hip-width distance apart. Slowly fold forward at the hips, reaching your hands to the floor. When your hands touch the floor, slowly being to walk them forward until your spine is neutral and you’re in the push-up starting position. Perform a full push-up and then walk your hands back towards your feet and slowly roll your spine up, one vertebra at a time, to return to the standing position.”
- Standard squat: Distribute your weight evenly between both feet. Keep your chest high with a straight back. Either put your hands on your waist or extend them forward, palms down. Bend your knees as if you were sitting down in a chair. Stand up, squeezing the buttocks.
- Jumping jacks. You loved doing these as kids in the school gymnasium. If your memory is a little rusty, stand straight with arms down by your sides. Raise both arms up and to the sides until they clap overhead while jumping up and landing with the feet spread far apart. Jump back as you lower both arms to the sides and return to a standing position with feet together.
- Hip bridge. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your arms flat on the floor close to the body with palms down. Gently raise your buttocks off the floor and hold the positions while squeezing the abdominal muscles. Hold the position for several seconds before rolling back down, one vertebra at a time.
- Plank. This famous fitness posture is also called the push-up position. A basic plank is formed by lying flat on your stomach with palms flat by the shoulders. Push up onto the arms and toes. Hold this position for as long as you can and increase the duration over time. A common variation is to plank on the elbows with hands clasped.
As you can see, there really is nothing standing between us and better fitness – except ourselves. Go out of your way to work in some regular daily exercise and you will improve your chances of going the distance in life with improved health and energy every step of the way!