Can you get enough exercise without ‘exercising’?

Annet In The Garden

You’re not into gyms, exercise classes or personal trainers. You don’t want to put on a special set of clothes and take time out for those things. But you’re happy to move, especially if you can slot it into your daily routine. The good news is you can largely stay fit by making your days more active.

Our grandmothers and great-grandmothers did it just by going about their everyday lives.

Of course, life has changed since grandma’s day. If you’re willing to give it some thought though, you can make being active a habit. Here are a few suggestions.

An obvious one: take the stairs. And if you have a long set leading into your house, carry your groceries up them. Do several trips rather than cutting off the circulation in your arm by taking everything in one go.

Avoid chairs as much as you can. If you’re doing something that you typically do sitting down — such as reading the paper — alternate between sitting and standing. Remember that it’s not that standing is so much better than sitting; it’s the movement between the two that’s useful.

If you’re in a waiting room and you’ll be there for a while, stand up and move around, or go for a walk outside. It’s probably more interesting than reading that 1995 Women’s Weekly anyway.

Ditto for waiting in airports. They provide stacks of opportunity to walk.

Standing in a queue? Move around a bit. You don’t need to glue yourself to the spot.

Catch up with a friend by going for a stroll together rather than sitting down drinking coffee.

No need to sit down when you’re on the phone either. As long as your reception is good, stand up and move around.

Use housework as exercise: make your bed, handwash your delicate clothes, wash the dishes vs loading the dishwasher, weed your garden, and so on. Recently I worked with a slim, fit 80-year old woman who told me she stayed agile by getting down and scrubbing her floors.

See and do things in your community. It’s easy to decide you can’t be bothered going to that exhibition, performance or event. Use these as an excuse to get out and get moving.

Catch public transport rather than driving if the public transport option will involve more walking.

Watching TV? Get up and move around in the ad breaks, or between shows.

When you walk through doorways at home, reach up and stretch. Practice balancing on one leg when you have time to kill in the kitchen, e.g. while you’re waiting for the jug to boil.

I’ve written before about arranging your house so that you have to reach up or squat down to get to some of your everyday items.

Most of these seem insignificant, but across a day or a week they add up to an active life.

It means looking at your ‘to do’ list and working out how to create opportunities to move. For example, if you have to post something, perhaps you could drive part of the way to the post office and walk the rest.

If you need to do specific exercise — for example to rehabilitate an injury or build your bone density—this kind of activity won’t do. But it can be sufficient to keep your heart and brain healthy, manage your weight and generally reduce your risk of disease.

The hardest exercise to get enough of incidentally in today’s environment might be the type that builds strength. If you’re committed to avoiding gyms and the like, maybe you can borrow the idea in the post about a longer, healthier, happier life and keep a pair of dumb bells next to your TV. Just a thought (insert smiling emoji).

This idea of an active life doesn’t only apply to people who want a cheap, flexible, non-exercise program. Even if you do structured exercise, it’s not good for us to be sedentary for the rest of the day or week.

We can probably all do with honing the habit of being more active.

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