"Get more exercise!" By now, most people have been told to make this a goal for their lives, whether from their doctors, family and friends or social media blasts. It sounds great -- and easy -- until you start trying to follow the advice. Suddenly, you find yourself confused: What, exactly, constitutes exercise and why does it even matter? And, if you're already too busy to get everything on your to-do list done, how do you add one more thing to your schedule? Forget the new year resolutions; use these tips to squeeze it in, you can "fall" into fitness this autumn!
What is it and why should I even try?
Formally, exercise is "activity requiring physical effort." Usually, it refers to activity that is more than your minimal movement and that is intended to boost your fitness and health. It does not have to been hours of strenuous workouts at the gym -- just more than you've been doing.
Physical fitness reasons for exercising are probably obvious, but do you know about the connection between exercise and your brain? Exercise can boost your mood and help you sleep better, which reduces stress and anxiety; in turn, lower levels of stress improve your cognitive, or mental, functioning. You can think more clearly, remember more and learn more easily. Exercise can improve your focus, strengthen your short- and long-term memory, and improve your cognitive flexibility, which includes your ability to multi-task, to track more than one thing at a time and switch between thinking tasks more quickly. And, if you're trying to quit smoking, lose weight or break some other habit? Exercise boost impulse and inhibitory control; in other words, it gives you more willpower.
How do I fit it in?
Life in the twenty-first century is busy, and no matter how hard you try, you are not going to be able to create more hours -- you're pretty much stuck with 24 hours for each day. These five tips can help you reclaim some time to use for exercising, though, without having to throw out your current schedule and start from scratch.
1. Pick up the pace
To start, you don't have to add any more activity; just keep on doing what you're already doing, only faster. Instead of ambling along from your car to the office door, pick it up and walk briskly or trot along with the dog instead of wandering the neighborhood.
2. Pick a hobby that gets you moving
Is gourmet cooking one of your passions? Add gardening to your list of hobbies. Preparing a garden bed, planting seeds or seedlings and keeping the weeds out -- yes, it counts as exercise, and it's a lot more rewarding than pushing a lawnmower. Or take up dancing -- combine socializing with exercise by "cutting a rug" now and then.
3. Get off the couch during television commercials
Honestly, do you really enjoy those ads, especially the ones for junk foods that weaken your resolve to eat healthily? If you watch 2 hours of television a day and use only the commercial time for your workout, you'll still manage anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes a day! Use "deskercises" or move your stationary bike into the TV room and sneak four or five 30-second high-impact riding spurts during your favorite series.
4. Take advantage of waiting or "in between" times
Use time spent in lines at the grocery store or bank to sneak in a little more movement. Jog in place while stirring a sauce or do calf raises or squats while folding the clean towels. When you're waiting for the printer or the microwave to finish, tap your feet rapidly on the floor, as if you're tap-dancing.
5. Move more, shortcut less
This one is pretty intuitive, and you've probably heard it before, but if you walk more and drive less, you're exercising more. Park at the end of the parking lot when it's safe to do so, take the stairs, go talk to a colleague or a neighbor instead of calling or emailing. Walk the dog more often instead of turning her loose in the backyard; stand up when you're talking on the phone -- even pace a little, if practical.