Ah, exercise. It’s the silver bullet to a myriad of health problems, from obesity, to heart disease, and even simple fatigue. Moving regularly can make you more energetic, slimmer, and even happier.
You can reap the mental, physical and emotional benefits of regular physical activity without having to invest in a costly gym membership. Instead, read on for simple ways to incorporate more movement into your daily life to maximize both your limited time and your tight budget.
15. Walk faster
This one seems like a no-brainer, but the activity is full of heart-boosting benefits. The easiest, cheapest, and most natural exercise for human beings is walking. Walking requires no special equipment or talents. It simply necessitates that you put one foot in front of the other.
However, because it is such a natural movement, your body will quickly become used to the repetitive motion. Once your muscles have adapted to a certain motion, they will become more efficient at that motion and, as a result, burn less calories. An easy solution? Walk faster!
When you’re able to (perhaps not when you’re escorting an elderly grandparent across the street), walk quickly enough that you find yourself slightly out of breath. You should walk quickly enough that you’re not quite able to hold a conversation.
14. Take the stairs
Remember that fifth-floor dorm room you had your sophomore year of college? How remember how toned your legs were? Walking up the stairs requires you to work your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, and even abdominal muscles.
It conditions you for more intense activities like running and mountain climbing, and actually burns more calories per hour than jogging. It’s easy to incorporate if you live higher in your building than the first story. If not, create a personal challenge for yourself to take the stairs any time you are faced with the choice between the stairs and elevator.
When you have the opportunity, take stairs two at a time, or run up them quickly. Just don’t trip!
13. Park further away
Regardless of how in shape (or out of shape!) you might be, there really isn’t any way to get out of the monotony of running errands. Luckily, you can do double-duty during your grocery shopping, banking, or task-completing outings.
Don’t spend countless hours circling the parking lot in search of a spot up close. Instead, park as far away from the building as possible. It may not seem like much, but those extra steps add up. If you’re shopping at a large center or mall, don’t park in front of the store in which you plan to do most of your shopping.
Forcing yourself to park further away helps you log crucial steps (and requires you to carry those heavy bags for a longer period of time!)
12. Make the most of your lunch break
Millions of people take their lunch breaks sitting at their desks. While you may believe this boosts your productivity and increases the amount of work you can complete in a day, this habit is actually counterproductive. Scheduling movement in the middle of your work day boosts your focus and attention on a task by increasing bloodflow to the brain.
In addition, eating while working (even on a seemingly mindless task) prevents you from fully focusing on what you’re putting into your mouth. Simply put, if you’re typing away on that report throughout your entire lunch break, you’re probably going to eat more junk. On a similar note, skip the drive thru at lunch as well.
Although it is possible to find healthy options while eating out (and most restaurants have made this process easier by providing calories and nutritional information), eating in the car provides the same mindless munching dangers as presented by eating at your desk. Get out, walk in, eat, and then walk back out. Your body will thank you!
11. Tidy your house
Kiss that maid service goodbye. You’ll save some money and shed some pounds in the process. Did you know that even low-effort cleaning around the house burns up to three hundred calories an hour? Add to your cleaning routine some heavy duty scrubbing, mowing, or weeding, and you could burn even more.
For an extra burst of energy, try playing upbeat music while you clean. This will subconsciously force you to clean faster and more efficiently. By devoting just ten or fifteen minutes of the day to tidying up around the house, you’ll benefit from added movement and increased focus as a result of the decreased clutter.
Your house will sparkle and your mood is sure to rise!
10. Work out while watching television
There’s nothing more relaxing at the end of the day than relaxing in front of the television with a glass of wine. Unfortunately, this habit quickly packs on the pounds and can leave you feeling even more tired. Luckily, you can indulge your inner couch potato and get healthy at the same time.
Every time your show breaks for a commercial (if you’re a Netflix fan, you’ll have to time this yourself), get up and complete an alternating routine of jumping jacks, push-ups, crunches, and planks. If you have dumbbells or other free weights, you can also incorporate these into your plan. You’re guaranteed to be totally jacked by season two.
9. Change up your cooking habits
Ever wonder how your grandmother was able to maintain such a svelte figure–without hitting the gym once? We’ve automated a lot of daily processes (like cleaning, doing laundry, and cooking) so that very little manual effort is involved. When was the last time you mashed potatoes by hand instead of using a hand mixer?
Whenever possible, swap your electric or automatic tools for manual, hand-powered ones. These include hand mashers instead of mixers, spiralizers instead of mixer attachments, and whisks instead of blenders. And don’t invest in a pricey dough hook for your mixer, either!
Kneading dough by hand is a great way to give your arm and finger muscles some attention.
8. Maintain your property!
It’s easy to torch some calories while tending to your lawn and property as well. If you rely on wood heat to warm you throughout the cold winter months, you’re in luck. Splitting wood is a great way to work your core and arm muscles.
Whether you’re just lifting the heavy logs and placing them in a wood splitter or manually splitting with a maul or axe, this is a great workout that burns up to 500 calories per hour. Even raking or mowing your lawn, which seem to be little more than walking, help you log the steps and break a sweat.
Since these activities are probably programmed into your brain as “mandatory chores,” why not approach them with the goal of getting fit instead?
7. Power through those business meetings
If you work in an office setting, you’re already at risk for a variety of diseases caused by excessive sitting. Sitting for eight hours a day (as many of us do) increases your risk of cardiovascular problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, and even cancer. Reduce your risk by incorporating more movement.
Connect your computer to the printer that is furthest away from your desk (ideally, on another floor). Instead of emailing your colleagues with questions or information, walk to their cubicles or offices.
While you’re talking on the phone, pace around the room. You’ll not only feel better, but find that you’re able to complete tasks much more efficiently and with increased focus.
6. Get a standing desk
Thanks to this article, you now know the dangers of sitting all day at work. Many innovative fitness and office supply companies have sought to address this risk with the invention of the standing desk. A standing desk holds your computer and working space at a taller height, requiring you to stand instead of sit throughout the day.
If a standing desk just isn’t in your (or your company’s) budget, you can make your own standing desk by simply propping your computer up on a small end table, then stacking that end table atop your desk. This gives you flexibility and the ability to sit if needed.
Another good alternative to the standing desk is sitting on a medicine ball while you work. This helps keep your core muscles active while you type away.
5. Quench your thirst… often!
This one probably doesn’t make a lot of sense at first glance. Drink more water? What does that have to do with movement…certainly lifting the bottle to my mouth can’t burn that many calories? Simply put, it doesn’t. The benefit of this activity is in the…eh…aftermath.
Drinking more water requires you to get up and use the bathroom more frequently. As side benefits of staying totally hydrated, drinking water helps to improve your focus and speed up your metabolism. It helps circulate those vital nutrients throughout your body and keep your systems working at top performance.
4. Play games that involve movement
You can have fun and get fit at the same time, and Nintendo is one company of late that’s really capitalized on this notion. There are countless video games on the market, such as the Wii, that allow the user to hop up off that couch and torch some calories. These games are a great option for game-loving children and young-at-heart adults.
Other fun options include Pokemon Go, Geocaching, Zombie Run!, and Superhero Workout. The opportunities are endless–just make sure that if you choose to play a game that requires you to explore locations outside of your living room, safety should be a priority.
Don’t explore places that seem unsafe or unfamiliar, especially when it’s dark–no matter how many calories you might burn.
3. Use a fitness tracker
Fitness trackers, such as Fitbit, MapMyRun, and MyFitnessPal, have become increasingly popular within the last few years, and for good reason. These trackers help you set achievable, steps-based goals and monitor your progress in achieving them. As an added bonus, many provide free tips from trainers or fitness experts.
There are even free versions of these apps can tell you how many calories you’ve burned or eaten, and even monitor the quality of your sleep. You don’t have to buy a fancy tracking device; many are available as applications on your smartphone.
These trackers won’t inherently boost your fitness (you still have to do the work yourself), but they will provide little reminders to get moving when you haven’t been quite active enough.
2. Walk your canine(s)
If you have a furry friend, you’re in luck–you have a built-in workout buddy. Moreover, unlike your best friend from college that used to force you to go on seven a.m. jogs, this workout buddy can’t live without your attention. From daily walks to scenic weekend hikes, having a dog helps increase your fitness level in a most enjoyable manner.
Many areas also host “doggie socials” at local parks where you can bring your dog to socialize with other pups. Not only will he benefit from the added socialization, you’ll log some extra steps just by getting him there. Man’s best friend? More like health’s best friend.
1. Pick active hobbies
There are so many enjoyable hobbies that require movement as an integral component. Regardless of your age, income level, or interests, there’s something for everyone. Try hiking on the beach or in the mountains, or going apple picking in the fall. You can torch calories by window shopping (or, let’s face it, actual shopping) or by hitting the nightclub.
Go out for the evening and listen to a band, or check out the local museum. You don’t have to be a millionaire or quit your job in order to be active. Simply seek out daily opportunities to integrate movement into your already busy life, and get going!