Americans are too sedentary. We sit too much and don’t get out enough, and the impact on our bodies is serious. The solution is to get active, and while vigorous activity like running is good for you, studies have shown that moderate exercise can also have a positive impact. It’s probably no coincidence that two women I know who remained in great physical health into their 90s (one of them lived to be 106) were avid gardeners.
There are a lot of places to get exercise: the gym, the track, trails, sidewalks, treadmills, swimming pools, tennis courts … you get the idea. But there are plenty of places to sneak some exercise, too. And while getting an extra step here or there may not sound like a big deal, those steps can add up, especially over the course of years or decades. Science has shown that even a difference of 1,500 or 2,000 steps extra each day can have a huge difference in life expectancy.
For busy people, it might seem like finding time for even moderate exercise is too hard. But don’t despair: there are places to sneak it in all around you, during the course of a normal day. And it all starts by embracing the natural inconveniences all around you.
Here are some examples.
Find Excuses to Walk Around the House
How many times have you seen a person, sitting on a couch, ask someone else to pick up the remote or hand them something? Chances are, you’ve done it yourself. (I have!) Instead of asking someone else, take the time to get up and get it … and maybe wander around a little bit while you’re at it.
Here’s another one: I know people who text other family members inside the same house. If they’re in the house and their daughter is in her room, they text her. Instead, get up, walk over to the room, and knock. Sure, they might wonder what’s wrong at first, but that activity will get you standing and moving around.
A third one: when you talk to people at home, stand up and maybe walk around a little. Sounds silly at first, but, again, it adds up. And it doesn’t take any time out of your life.
See Chores as Exercise
A lot of people really hate doing the laundry or washing dishes. They see it as boring, and a waste of time, usually because of all the other ways they could be spending that time instead.
But what if you saw chores as not just something necessary to keep a house in line, but a way to get in some exercise? Doing dishes gets you on your feet and moving around the house. Carrying and folding laundry do the same thing. So does cleaning and vacuuming. Those simple activities move you up and about. Plus, they can be great for giving you a chance to think and even be more creative.
Park Far Away
If you’ve ever gone to a store with a parking lot, you’ve seen people floating around the nearest parking spaces like birds of prey swooping in for a kill. I can see in my head the man waiting in his SUV for a lady to back out of her spot right next to the door at Target so he can slide in.
Here’s an alternative: park far away. Like really far away. For one thing, it will make your car a little less likely to be dinged or hit by nearby cars or carts, since there won’t be as many around you. And two, it will add steps to your trip, giving you more walking time there and back.
Added bonus: take the long way to return your shopping cart.
Take the Stairs
Whenever I stay at a hotel, I take the stairs whenever possible. It’s not because I’m afraid of the elevator. It’s because when I’m staying in a hotel, that usually means I’ve been pretty sedentary getting there — probably sitting in a car — and I like being able to get a small amount of exercise. I do the same thing when I go other places that have stairs, too, when I can.
What if you’re headed to the 40th floor? Well, that’s a lot of steps, especially if you’re in dress clothes, but one easy compromise is to take the elevator to the 35th floor, then walk the stairs the rest of the way. Again, it’s the little things that add up.
What about you? How do you add a little moderate exercise into your life?