It’s a challenge to find time to exercise. After all, you have a family to take care of and a job that gives you little free time to spend at the gym. On the other hand, staying active can help you control your weight and reduce the risk of a number of diseases, including the number one killer, heart disease. Fortunately, you don’t have to join a gym and use fancy equipment to get the health benefits of exercise. Research shows that short periods of exercise scattered throughout the day can add up to big benefits from a health standpoint. The key is to be an “exercise opportunist” and look for periods of time throughout the day when you can fit in some activity. Need some ideas? Here are five ways to stay active without spending time at the gym.
Find an Active Hobby
How do you spend your spare time? Do you park in front of the television or computer and spend an hour or two moving only your fingers? Cut back on television time, and find a hobby or pastime that’ll keep you on your feet. Some ideas? Bowling, badminton, racquetball, hiking, biking, archery, karate and tennis are just a few of the activities you can do to stay active and have fun at the same time. Check with your Parks and Recreation Department and local community centers to get a list of classes they’re offering. You might fall in love with a new activity and make new friends at the same time.
Take Fido for a Brisk Walk
Unlike humans, dogs are always enthusiastic about taking a walk - and they can inspire you too. Devote 30 minutes first thing in the morning or right before bedtime to take your canine pal for a brisk stroll. According to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, dog owners walk about 300 minutes a week compared to only 168 minutes weekly for non-dog owners. Don’t have a dog? Walk a neighbor’s dog or volunteer to exercise the dogs at your local animal shelter.
Become a Fitness DVD Junkie
Who says you can’t get a good workout at home? With a DVD player and a few fitness DVDs you can exercise with little or no equipment. Head to your local library and check out a few DVDs to pop into the player when you have a block of free time. Choose a variety of workouts to make it interesting. Try a kickboxing workout one day and a dance workout the next. Build strength without weights by investing in inexpensive resistance bands instead of dumbbells. A DVD player gives you the freedom to exercise on your own schedule without fighting the crowds at the gym.
Strap on a Pedometer
A pedometer increases awareness of how active you are – or aren’t, and it will give you motivation to move around more. Health experts recommend taking 10,000 steps a day. You’ll probably start with far fewer, but the challenge of reaching this goal can help you stay more active. When you wear one, it will remind you to take the stairs and park far away so you can log more steps. Why not encourage people in your family or co-workers at the office to join you and make it a friendly competition?
Take Activity Breaks during the Day
Research shows that sitting for long periods has definite health risks. In fact, sitting in a chair much of the day without taking breaks increases your risk of dying from all causes by 40%. Don’t be a statistic. Set an alarm on your computer or IPhone to go off every 30 minutes as a reminder to walk around. If you’re at the office, walk up and down the hall and go up and down the stairs. If you’re at home, spend ten minutes cleaning or doing another activity you have to do on your feet. Even short breaks make a difference when it comes to your health. Soon, it will become second nature.
The Bottom Line?
You really don’t need a gym membership to get the health benefits of exercise. Be aware and make more opportunities to get up and move. It’ll pay off with better health.
American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Volume 30, Issue 2 , Pages 131-136, February 2006.
WebMD. “Sitting Too Much May Boost Odds of Dying”