We underestimate how little we move.
According to a 2011 pooled analysis, one out of every five adults worldwide is physically inactive. This prevalence increases in wealthier and more developed countries, as well as among women and elderly individuals. In 2002, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 2 million deaths per year are caused by physical inactivity.
Bottom line: It’s ironic how physically inactive our society is, despite the fact that we’re always “on the go.”
If your cholesterol levels are high, your doctor probably recommended you get regular exercise if you don’t already. But when it comes to exercising, the biggest barrier involves figuring out strategies to incorporate movement into everyday life. Here are nine tips to help fit exercises into your already busy routine.
1. Use the stairs as much as possible
Climbing stairs has been associated with a number of health benefits including muscle strengthening, improving body composition, and improving low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.
And it’s convenient — climbing stairs requires no special gear and can be easily incorporated into your daily routine. This includes making small choices like taking the stairs instead of elevators while at work or at the mall.
2. Park farther away
There are numerous health benefits to walking. It helps reduce:
- blood pressure
- body fat
- total cholesterol
- depression symptoms
- risk of dementia
Consider adding more walking into your day when running errands. For example, parking your car at the end of the lot that’s farthest away from your destination is one way to incorporate a few extra steps into your day.
3. Stand, don’t sit
Thanks to technology and a modern lifestyle, we spend more time sitting and less time moving. However, prolonged periods of uninterrupted sitting can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, and obesity.
Consider changing from a traditional work desk at your job to a height-adjustable, sit-to-stand desk. This will allow you to change your posture from sitting to standing throughout the day. It’s also more likely to promote standing behavior and give potential health benefits.
4. Wear weights
If you’re fairly stationary during your average workday, considering wearing 1- to 2-pound ankle weights to add resistance and help strengthen your muscles.
5. Make a schedule
You’re more likely to exercise if you create a regular schedule to make it a part of your day. Consider setting an alarm to remind you to exercise, even for just doing a few situps a day.
6. Bring a (human or furry) friend
You’re more likely to meet your exercise goals if you involve a buddy. Whether it’s running with your dog or simply going for a walk outside with a work colleague for a few minutes, exercising with a partner is a great way to feel social and to move.
7. Have sex
During sex, energy expenditure and oxygen requirements increase, with maximum levels reached during orgasm.
In addition to the physiological changes that happen during sex, physical touch leads to the release of certain beneficial hormones like oxytocin, which has been shown to have antidepressant properties in animal studies.
And just think — aiming to have sex even once a week over the course of 20 years would equal over a thousand opportunities for exercise!
8. Get those miles in
Using a treadmill while watching a movie or your favorite weekly television show is a great way to move your body and burn calories while doing an otherwise stationary activity.
If walking on a treadmill isn’t your jam, a stationary bike or a rowing machine can also be a great way to exercise when you watch TV.
It only takes a few minutes out of your day to turn on your favorite song and dance, dance, dance! Some research has shown that through dancing, older adults can improve their aerobic power, balance, flexibility, and lower body muscle endurance.
As you can see, it’s possible to incorporate exercise in small ways throughout your day. It takes some creativity and motivation, but the benefits will speak for themselves!
Priyanka Wali, MD, is a board-certified internal medicine physician who can be found on twitter @WaliPriyanka