When people are asked why they aren’t physically active, the most common answer is not having enough time. Even though it only takes 20-30 minutes out of the day, nearly 80% of people don’t even get that much. Part of it is living in a society in which we’ve engineered activity out of our daily lives in the pursuit for more efficiency. But that doesn’t mean you can’t fit in some form of daily activity.
Finding the Time
Meeting the activity guidelines means just finding 20-30 minutes each day. About the same amount of time as a TV sitcom. If you’re wondering where the time will come from, write out a weekly time chart. Include things such as work, household chores and other common commitments. But also include any TV time, driving places, using your phone, and other similar activities. And be honest with yourself.
After you’ve finished your chart, write down your goals. Things you want to achieve each week, including being active. Look at your chart and your goals. Does the time you spend on your activities match your goals? Many of us will realize we spend time on things that don’t match what we really want to do. If this is you, what can you shift around or remove to fit in your activity? Once you’ve found the time, write it in. This will help you build activity into your weekly routine leading to a greater chance you’ll succeed.
Be Active at Work
The very first studies showing the benefits of exercise were conducted in the workplace. These studies found people in more active jobs were healthier and had less chance of getting heart disease. Nowadays, that’s hard to do. Many of us have jobs in which we sit most of the day and get very little activity. Even people in more active jobs have probably noticed they’re less active over time due to automation.
We spend nearly half of our waking hours at work, so it would be a shame to miss out on activity during this time. Even if you don’t have an active job, there are ways you can build activity into the workplace. These include taking phone calls standing up or while walking, having walking meetings or exercising on your lunch break. Some people drink more water during the day so they can get up to go to the washroom more often. Even choosing to use the stairs can improve your fitness.
Be Active at Home
As with work, activities at home are less active than in previous decades. But just like at work, there are ways you can fit in more activity at home. Doing household chores can be just as good as exercising, as long as they’re vigorous enough. Household chores such as vacuuming and washing windows can be similar to a leisure walk. Using a push mower to cut your grass is not much different than a light jog.
You can also build in activity when you’re running household errands. If you can, conduct errands by walking or riding your bike. For short trips, these forms of active transport are generally quicker than driving and also save money. If you do need to drive, try parking further away from your destination and walk the rest of the way. Often times the first spot you see will be quicker than driving around for a closer spot, and give you more time to be active.
Every Step Counts
The benefits of being active and getting exercise begin from your very first step. And all of those steps, and other types of movement, add up. Even if you’re not up to being active for 20-30 minutes per day, doing something is better than nothing. One study reported people who exercised no more than an hour per week had a lower risk for early death than people who were totally inactive. Of course, people who were more active had the greatest benefits.
These small amounts of activity can improve your fitness, and how you use sugars and fats for energy. Exercise snacks, short, vigorous burst of 20-120 seconds, are a great way to get in activity if you’re pressed for time (read more here or listen to my podcast). Even breaking up sitting every half hour with a couple of minutes of walking can be a boost to your metabolism. As a result, the World Health Organization’s new guidelines no longer have a set minimum of activity at a given time. While the weekly target of at least 150 minutes remains, you can accumulate your time how you want to do it. This means as little as one minute, maybe less, counts towards your weekly targets.
These are just a few ways of fitting in activity into your life. There are numerous other ways to fit in activity and exercise into your routine, so go with what works best for you and make a habit of it. And as you increase your daily activity you may wish to monitor your progress with a wearable device or writing in a diary.
Being active also helps others be active as we act as role models whether we know it or not. So when you’re more active, it sends a message to your family, friends and neighbours that they can do it too. And perhaps even join you.
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