What does an active lifestyle mean to you? Does it mean that you get a 30 minute crossfit workout in a 6:30am, or does it mean that you walk your dog after dinner?
While our culture often highlights very intense, sweaty, workouts topped with a low carb, pricey, protein shake, that’s not how it has to be.
Physical activity is much more than just exercising. Any time you are working to get your heart rate up, it’s physical activity! There are a lot of choices that we make during the day that we can change to get more active minutes in our daily life.
Studies show that you have better health outcomes if you are physically active in small spurts throughout the day, rather than a one hour intense workout. If you can’t afford a gym membership, or don’t enjoy it, there are ways to get in this physical activity at home and work!
The first thing you want to do is evaluate your activity level throughout the entire day, or even week. How many minutes are you sitting each day? Most people sit at work, sit to eat, and sit to watch TV or relax. If you work out for 30 minutes a day, what are you doing for the other 23.5?
When I was in college, I learned about the London Transport Work study. The study looked at the prevalence of negative health outcomes, specifically heart disease, among active and inactive train workers.
At the time, many thought that the conductors would have better health outcomes because they were able to sit down while working, thus having less stress. They found that the ticket collectors, the ones that were walking the length of the train all day, actually had better health outcomes because they were living an active lifestyle! This is one of many studies that looks at the idea of “sitting disease”, or “sedentary disease”.
Physical activity doesn’t need to be done all at once. In fact, it shouldn’t be. If you can schedule breaks in your day to take an afternoon walk instead of an afternoon Facebook break, you’ll have better focus, feel more refreshed, and be able to sneak in some more of those minutes!
When it’s cold outside, this can be difficult. Instead, you can challenge yourself to do a certain number of squats, or any exercise, every time you go to the copy machine. My coworker, Olivia, and I take a 15 minute walk around 2PM to give us an energy boost to finish the day. When I microwave my lunch, I spend those 2 minutes doing jumping jacks, squats, or anything I can think of! I’ve also jimmy rigged a standing desk out of old boxes that I use on occasion! There are a lot of things that you can do to stay active throughout the day.
If you need to set a reminder in your phone until you get into the habit of it, do it! Physical activity should work to fit YOUR lifestyle.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has age appropriate physical activity guidelines to help you monitor your activity level and overall health. They have categories for youth ages 6-17, adults ages 18-64, older adults ages 65 and older, and pregnant or postpartum women. The guidelines have sections for aerobic activity, muscle strengthening, and bone strengthening with options for moderate or vigorous activity.
So get out there and get moving!