Exercise is More than Hitting the Gym
With January being a popular month for gym memberships, I wanted to address a common misconception in the wellness industry: A healthy lifestyle means setting aside time for exercise, yes, but it also means making Habits of Healthy Motion a part of your entire day, not just the half hour or hour that you spend lifting weights.
Just so there’s no confusion, scheduling time specifically for exercise is still important. You should aim to get at least 30 minutes of exercise activity a day (walking is a great place to start).
The problem is that even if you meet the recommended amount of dedicated exercise a day, it will still only take up, less than 2 percent of your week. That leaves a lot of time for you to be sedentary when you should be staying active and burning calories. In Dr. A’s Habits of Health, I divide these categories into Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (EAT; dedicated exercise time) and Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT; the motion that makes up the rest of your day).
NEAT is actually a much more efficient way to fight calorie creep and a more important contributor to energy expenditure. It’s also much easier to do—in fact you’re already doing it. With a little bit of planning, you can do it even better!
The goal is to make motion a near-continuous part of your day. This can be a challenge in a modern world where we have long commutes to work and may spend the majority of a workday parked at a desk, but it’s still possible to incorporate some of the steady activity that kept our hunter-gatherer ancestors fit and lean.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Stance – Pay attention to your posture. Instead of melting into your office chair, activate your core, align your body properly, and focus on the foundational muscles that give your core strength, especially when you are seated. If you can sit on an exercise ball at your desk, you are less likely to forget about your posture.
- Strolling – You should aim for a daily count of 10,000 steps. If you park a bit farther from the door, use the far water cooler at work, and take the stairs instead of the elevator, you can reach your goal before you hit the treadmill for a workout.
- Samba – Dancing is a great way to burn calories and lift your mood. Listen to music at work and tap your foot or bounce your head to the beat. If you’re listening to music at home during chores, bust out some of your favorite moves while you’re at it.
- Switch – For simple daily tasks, try using your non-dominate hand. This forces your mind and body to do a little bit of extra work, which is great for brain health as well, and you will burn some easy calories in the process.
- Mindfulness – During a long day, it’s all-too easy to forget about your Habits of Healthy Motion. Set an hourly reminder to get up and walk (or at least stand for the next phone call), and with some practice you will become more aware of your need for motion.
Our days should be full of activity. Even if getting up from your office chair every hour doesn’t seem like a huge step forward, keeping that habit strong for months and months will introduce a wealth of motion to your life and will help to combat the many health consequences of a sedentary lifestyle.
So get moving!