The benefits of physical activity are undeniable, yet many of us still struggle to find the time and motivation to incorporate exercise into our busy routines. Even as a nation known for its love of sports, less than a third of Australians reach the minimum recommended activity levels for maintaining physical and mental health, as well as preventing chronic diseases caused by sedentary lifestyles. Hitting the gym or joining a local sports team are perfect choices to get moving, but there’s plenty of ways to incorporate sustainable physical activity throughout the day. The list below outlines the low-hanging fruit for incremental improvement for health and happiness through movement;
When it comes to low-effort, low-impact, low-cost activity – walking is hard to beat. There’s no better way to get the blood flowing and the heart beating than a brisk walk, and everyday is full of opportunities to up your step count. Starting in the morning – you could opt to jump off the train one stop early, or park your car a few minutes from the office to easily fit in a pre-work stroll. Taking the stairs as much as possible and putting your runners on for an active lunchtime are also simple ways of destroying desk-induced sluggishness. If you want to get even more physical bang for your buck, try out a ‘walk and talk’ meeting for your next work-related phone call – you might as well chew the fat while you’re burning it.
Long periods of stationary sitting aren’t good for your health, or part of an active lifestyle, so why not split them up with bursts of movement at regular intervals? If you don’t have access to standing desk, all you need to do is set a timer for 30-45 minutes increments as a reminder to stretch your legs and do some light activity. Some basic stretches, a walk to the water cooler, or even a few squats (without scaring your colleagues) adds a bonus calorie burn to your breaks and gives you a burst of energy for the next work session. The same rules apply for watching TV at the end of the day; ad-breaks make a perfect opportunity to jump off the couch for a quick set of push-ups, sit-ups or burpees.
There are few things more motivating than pitting yourself against others in a physical challenge. It doesn’t have to be serious, even a light-hearted competition between co-workers or friends can provide a real boost for achieving your daily activity goals with a social twist. If you have a pedometer, fitbit or health app on your phone – you can track your steps and compete with others to see who can reach the chosen step count first or who takes the most steps in a day. A little healthy competition never hurt anyone, and if the game is movement – everybody wins just by playing.
Once you’ve started to build in a few – or all – of these active habits into your day-to-day life, you’ll begin to see even more chances to squeeze in some extra movement. And when it comes to health and fitness, remember that small steps can lead to big benefits in the long run.