In the recent decades’ trend toward higher-tech, lower-labor work both in and out of the home, some major physicality has been lost in our day-to-day lives. Here are some ways to help incorporate exercise into your daily routines without taking up too much of your precious time:
1. Make your bed every morning.
You’ll get your muscles moving first thing after you get up, and you’ll appreciate the beautiful, beckoning sight come bed time.
2. Do 10 push-ups every morning.
Or jumping-jacks, or crunches, etc. This is a small enough number to commit to each day but a regular enough activity to make a difference. Over time, you can add five more, ten more, and so on.
3. Squat while you brush your teeth.
It may sound (and will definitely look) funny, but it’s effective for three reasons: you’ll have a cleaner smile, a tighter tush, and a small part in saving the planet. Squatting while brushing will make you brush your teeth for longer, turn the water off while brushing, and build stronger glutes in the process.
4. Park farther than you need to.
Don’t stress over trying to get the closest possible spot to your destination. Plan ahead of time to park farther away, and not only will you be more at peace, but you’ll also get in some extra walking. It’s a win-win!
5. Clean your office.
This doesn’t have to be a major project (unless that’s what your office needs), but doing daily or every-other-daily maintenance, such as dusting, wiping, and de-cluttering will keep you active and happier at your desk and diminish the need for major cleanup projects throughout the year.
6. Take the stairs.
Assuming you don’t need to get to the 20th floor, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Stair climbing is a great cardiovascular exercise that may feel difficult if you’re not accustomed to it, but over time, your body will adapt and your heart (and thighs!) will thank you. And if you do need to go to the 20th floor, consider taking the elevator part of the way and stepping up the rest.
7. Exercise on the job.
You can actually do quite a lot of exercises at your desk, even implementing your office furniture. Here are just 10 such exercises to get your blood pumping. I dare you to not try “The Magic Carpet Ride.” Is yoga more your thing? Try these poses to help maintain your mind-body balance at work.
8. Do your own filing/copying/coffee-fetching.
Assistants are great, but they secretly derive the physical benefit of doing your busy work while you spend more time sitting still. Every now and then, give your assistant a break and do your own tasks that require you to get up and get moving.
9. Switch out your office chair for a stability ball.
This may sound bizarre, and it’s guaranteed to turn heads, but sitting on a giant exercise ball instead of the typical office chair will cause you to use your core muscles and have better posture all day long. Just try not to fall off (too much).
10. Schedule a daily walk break at work.
Put it on your calendar. This way, you’re less likely to get over-absorbed in a project and can’t use the excuse that you forgot. Better yet, get a coworker to join you — both for company and accountability. Even 10 or 15 minutes is better than what you were (not) doing before.
11. Take calls standing up.
If you spend a lot of time on the phone at work, use that time to get off your rump and stretch your legs. The person on the other line won’t have a clue how odd you look.
12. Skip the inter-office mail and walk it over instead.
If you work at a large company and use inter-office mail to send documents to offices in adjacent buildings or even on different floors of the same building, keep that envelope in your hand and walk it on over to your colleague’s office. You might even make a friend.
13. Suggest walk meetings.
Getting together with coworkers or friends often takes place over coffee or food, sitting down. As an alternative to the sedentary meeting, suggest going on a walk to hash things out or come up with brilliant ideas; after all, getting the blood flowing helps with brain function.
14. Practice isometrics.
If you’re stuck suffering through a long meeting, you can still keep your muscles moving by essentially pumping isolated muscles or muscle groups. Try repeatedly flexing and unflexing your abdominal muscles, for instance. The better you get at it, the more you can try to isolate different, specific regions. While you certainly won’t bulk up doing this exercise, you can maintain your muscle tone without drawing unwanted attention to yourself.
15. Reorganize your office or home.
I have a co-worker who goes on a fairly large-scale reorganization frenzy every few months, and somehow the rest of us get sucked into helping. But an unexpected side effect of pitching in is that we also get a workout for that day. So while you don’t need to aspire to the level of my compulsive coworker, you may find that moving things around every now and then is healthy for both your body and your mind.
16. Go on walking/biking errands.
Have a few in-town errands to run? Strap a basket to your bike or throw on a backpack and save some gas by footing or biking it to the store, post office, bank, etc.
17. Do the grocery shopping.
If you aren’t already the designated grocery-shopper in your household, volunteer to take on this task. Walking up and down aisles, pushing a cart or carrying a basket, and reaching high and low for items on shelves all work and stretch your muscles–plus, this way you can be in control of all the healthy foods you’re going to bring home, right?
18. Make your own food.
Look at this as a labor of love — one that will have you moving around the kitchen and burning calories, rather than waiting in line at a cafe or sitting at a restaurant while others do the busy work to serve you.
19. Hand-wash dishes.
After you’ve done all that food prep, your dishes aren’t going to wash themselves. Rather than loading them into the dishwasher, which often uses more water and energy and does a less efficient job than hand-washing, take to the sink and use some elbow grease to scrub your dishes clean.
20. Keep your yoga mat/weights/kettlebell by the TV.
That way, next time you head to the sofa to watch your favorite show, you can instead squeeze in some exercise while indulging in an otherwise guilty pleasure.
21. Clean your home.
Don’t wait until the spring to do all your cleaning. Keep things clean and tidy throughout the year by making regular efforts to dust, vacuum, sweep, put away, and clean surfaces. Choose a different room or chore for each night of the week, or save it for the weekend. Your home will sparkle and your body will glisten from the physical workout. And then be glad we don’t live in pioneer times.
22. Wash your own vehicle.
I confess that I’ve gone to car-washing services before, and I’ve usually felt guilty about not doing the work myself; also, the time I thought I was saving was negligible, if any. So save your money and put your muscles to use by washing your own vehicle. Chances are, you’ll also be using less water and energy, and you can use your own environment-friendly soap!
23. Play with children.
I’m not advocating stranger-danger here, but if you have children in your life already, take advantage of opportunities to play with them. Kids have so much natural energy, and it’s completely infectious! Plus, how often do you have a legitimate excuse to stop acting like an adult?
Whether you’re cooking, cleaning, car-washing, or heading for a night out, getting your groove on will get rid of calories while simultaneously filling your soul.
A Vanderbilt University study found that “[t]en to 15 minutes of laughter could increase energy expenditure by 10 to 40 calories per day.” Need something to laugh at? PC World compiled a list of The 10 Funniest Sites on the Internet. Check it out for a chuckle — or 10.
Until the day the treadmill work station or standing desk is widely available to us all, or when we no longer have time-sucking personal and family commitments galore, I hope you’ll take some of these suggestions to heart — and body.
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