Daily physical activity is an essential part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Studies have shown both positive immediate and long-term health benefits, including a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and cardiovascular disease. Additionally, daily physical activity helps to regulate health markers such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It also positively impacts many aspects of one’s mental health.
Despite its importance, finding time throughout the day to engage in physical activity can be difficult, especially as our lives begin to return to some semblance of normalcy. Many people are beginning to return to office settings after spending the last couple of years working from home. As schedules become busier, you can start to feel like there are not enough hours in the day to dedicate to physical activity.
Here, we have created some tips and tricks to help you increase activity levels while going about your normal day. You can even do some of them at your desk while responding to emails!
Take public transit, bike, or walk to work. Often, driving is the simplest and fastest way to get from point A to point B, but it also typically takes the least amount of activity! Driving requires you to sit with limited movement for potentially extended periods of time, versus walking or biking. Interestingly, a 2014 study found that longer driving times had a negative impact on both physical and mental health, sleep regulation, and also increased the risk of obesity. However, not all of us live close enough to work for biking or walking to be an option. Many areas have public transit, and although you are still sitting, taking public transit makes you walk to and from each stop. You may have to wake up a bit earlier, but it will be worth it!
Avoid thinking purely of convenience! For example, park further away from entrances. A lot of the time, we actively search for the closest possible parking spot to the entrance we would like to go in, simply for the sake of convenience. Next time, instead of looking for the closest spot, try looking for a space further away. That way there is a longer walk from the car to the entrance, and voilà, increased activity levels right there! That was easy!
Take the stairs. Many places we go have elevators and escalators installed to reduce the number of stairs we need to climb (making our access easier). Although the elevator may be tempting – stairs can be seen as more work or effort – but it’s time to change that narrative! TAKE THE STAIRS! Consistently taking the stairs has plenty of health benefits, such as improving muscle strength (specifically in your legs, back and core), bone density, and joint flexibility. If you need another reason, climbing stairs gets your heart pumping and raises your heart rate, which has been previously correlated with a lower risk of developing heart disease!
Plan walking meetings! It’s understandably harder to set aside a specific time every day to take a walk. However, many of us have jobs where meetings take up a large part of the day. Typically, these meetings are held inside the office, sitting down, with minimal activity. Perhaps suggest to your colleagues that shorter meetings could be held in a nearby coffee shop or a park, allowing a few extra minutes of daily activity at the same time as promoting healthy living to your work mates! A win-win for everybody!
Try using a fitness tracking watch or app for reminders! Many of us have very busy lives where small things tend to be pushed to the side to make time for larger, more important tasks. Fitness trackers such as a Fitbit, Apple Watch or even a basic pedometer can provide reminders throughout the day to get up and walk. These trackers typically come with specific apps which contain a plethora of challenges, activities, tips, and guides to help you achieve your daily activity goal. However, watches and trackers may not be for everybody and can sometimes be pricey. In that case, phone apps such as 360Care, MyFitnessPal, Fitness buddy, Apple Fitness, and Fabulous are excellent alternatives and are available on the App Store and Google Play.
Incorporating physical activity into everyday life doesn't have to be hard!
Using these tips can hopefully help with overcoming the initial question of “How?” If you are still struggling, reach out to the team of health care professionals at Ellerca Health who are always here for support. The team can also discuss other suggestions that may be more suitable for your specific lifestyle. Don’t forget to speak with your doctor before beginning new exercise regimens to make sure that you are effectively monitoring blood sugar levels before, during, and after activity!
Ding, Ding et al. “Driving: a road to unhealthy lifestyles and poor health outcomes.” PloS one vol. 9,6 e94602. 9 Jun. 2014, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0094602.
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“Physical Activity – It’s Important.” Better Health Channel, Victoria State Government, 26 Aug. 2018, www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/physical-activity-its-important.
Saint-Maurice, Pedro F., et al. “Association of Daily Step Count and STEP Intensity with Mortality among Us Adults.” JAMA, vol. 323, no. 12, 24 Mar. 2020, pp. 1151–1160., doi:10.1001/jama.2020.1382.
“Tips to Help You Exercise More, Get Active.” National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 13 Feb. 2013, www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/wecan/get-active/getting-active.htm.