You may not be wearing your exercise clothes when you do it, but everyday activities like taking the steps, carrying grocery bags and lifting your child a zillion times a day all add up to a day of fitness. These “incidental activities” can very well aid in improving your cardio respiratory fitness and overall health.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults put in two hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (like brisk walking) every week, plus muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups on two or more days a week; or one hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (like jogging) every week plus weight training on two or more days a week; or an equivalent mix of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, plus two days of weight training.
Don’t be afraid to break up time into small increments. Research at Oregon State University suggests the health benefits of small amounts of activity can be just as beneficial as longer bouts of physical exercise achieved by a trip to the gym. The study of more than 6,000 American adults shows that an active lifestyle approach, as opposed to structured exercise, “may be just as beneficial in improving health outcomes, including preventing metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.”
If you find yourself stuck in line at the supermarket, it can be the perfect tiome to sneak in a minute or two of exercise. “Nano Workouts” by Joakim Christoffersson is an illustrated book that has 50 different exercises you can squeeze in during the day while you’re going through your daily routine.
Here are three sample workouts:
Squat as deep as you can and repeat as many times as you can manage during the time you brush your teeth. According to Nano Workouts, two minutes of squatting equals about 60 squats.
Pick up a basket and carry it with a slightly bent arm. It’s a static exercise that will give your upper arms a good workout. Don’t forget to switch arms.
Lay on your back in bed and elevate your legs. Raise your upper body, and turn to the left and meet your left knee with your elbow or hand. Keep your legs elevated and switch sides. Do as many as you can manage. There’s no need to raise your upper body all that much. If you just get your shoulder off the sheets, that’s enough.
Harvard Medical School came up with a point systems called “cardiometabolic exercise” to help you track how daily activities can improve your heart, metabolism and health. They recommend accruing at least 150 CME points a day.
Check out the chart below for an idea of how many points everyday activities provide.
Just wearing a pedometer or a smarter gadget like the Fitbit Zip — which tracks your steps, distance and calories burned — can help you measure how much you move around every day.