The slacker’s workout. A contradictory statement, of course, but the barrier between activity and lethargy needs to be broken eventually. The number of Americans who do not regularly exercise increased to 82.2 million in 2012, a 3 percent change in one year. As it is hard to convince those who choose a sedentary lifestyle to add a dose of exercise to their routine, it may be acceptable to offer a few casual options. It’s undoubtedly easy to choose laziness, and it can be rather enjoyable at times, but if you want to reduce your medical bills now and in the future, exercise is of the essence.
When justifications like lack of stamina get in the way, it’s time to get creative and think of the ways you can keep yourself healthy without making any resolutions, goals, or commitments. The best way to make a real change is to be realistic, and if you’re not going to use the gym membership or read the nutrition book, don’t buy them in the first place. There are more effective ways to acquire a healthy lifestyle than letting your money go to waste. Here are a few helpful nuggets of information to ease into a new comfort zone, one that involves movement.
It’s Not Exercise, It’s An Errand!
Much like working out for free, being moved to move can be a matter of productivity. Incidental exercise is the coined term for unintentionally working out, and it happens when calorie burning and strength building are a byproduct of another activity.
This practice is always a favorite, as a formal “workout” of sets, reps, and machines can be incredibly boring, tedious, and off-putting. For people who have made an eternal bond with their favorite piece of furniture, incidental exercise (but don’t call it that, or else it will spoil the “incidental” aspect) can help greatly. To start, try shifting the position of your couch and other furniture, so you get moving and at least when you do sit down again, you have a new perspective.
Using your feet as transportation also falls into this category, of course. If you choose to walk instead of drive around town, you increase your stamina and wind up at a destination – it’s a win-win situation. Forget that you’re getting activity and concentrate more on the productivity. Walking and biking are helping the environment and saving you money, reducing the consumption of the world’s dwindling supply of fossil fuels, and so on. If you live in a city, you may already not have much of a choice. When living in Brooklyn, depositing a check was a fantastic adventure, as the closest branch of my bank was in midtown Manhattan. Many staircases and subway sprints later, I found myself breaking a sweat. As anyone in an urban setting knows, this is one beneficial side effect of city living.
Offsetting the Work Day
The main reason Americans are so adhered to their seats is their jobs. Because the majority of positions require sitting at a desk for 8 hours or so, it is necessary to counterbalance those hours with a lunchtime walk, and a pre- or post-work workout. Even getting your next cup of coffee down the street mid-workday is a energy lift and a mindless way to move. You don’t necessarily have to spend money either: just get a breath of fresh air and happily pace around the block with your favorite music or a phone call.
The after work wind-down routine also needs to change in order to alter the effects of long-term sitting. Find a reason to walk (or bike) somewhere, whether it is simply a tour of the park or the neighborhood, visiting a friend on foot, or winding down at the bookstore after a several mile commute.
Walk to the market and buy some healthy foods to make for dinner, which will keep you productive and on your feet slightly longer. If it helps, you can build animosity towards gas prices, parking meters, and the cost of car maintenance to fuel your sans automobile efforts.
Making Less Lazy Choices
Another way to trick yourself into movement, eventually becoming less fatigued and willing to exercise is to take the stairs when you have the option. Even if you live or work on the top floor, you can cut your elevator ride short and walk up the last four flights. Be cautious when walking down stairs, however, as it can be stressful on your knees. Also, when riding public transportation, get off a stop or two before your usual and walk for the remainder of time. You’ll get to know the area and take a break from the crowded bus or train.
As for housecleaning, doing it the old fashioned way can benefit your health and be productive simultaneously. One study has linked automated cleaning devices like Roombas to obesity and increased screen time in Americans, and while they may not have the most solid findings, they are on to something. Though it might sound good at the time, the robot will bring down your health eventually. Picking up your room, doing laundry, cleaning floors, and other chores are a good way to move around without too much thought. If you feel your heart rate increasing, you’re on the right track.
Starting a Project
Is there something you enjoy doing? Well, do more of it, especially if it involves fixing, creating, building, or any other form of movement. Whether you feel like making music, painting houses, working on cars, or blogging
(which is sedentary until you become an avid photographer/videographer), you can commence a productive streak that contributes to your health.
Projects tend to keep you busy. Moving from one place to another to refill, grabbing a new tool, making an adjustment, or running out for something you’re missing is a great way to feel accomplished and workout.
If you’re a computer-based hobbyist, investigate all your local spots for blog material or inspiration. Even gamers and programmers can benefit from some time out of the chair by picking up a magazine or a book, rather than searching the web for answers.
Talk to Your Doctor
While this isn’t the fun part, you should always consult your physician before trying a new activity, however mild. Especially if you have been inactive for a long time, your body will ultimately appreciate a professional opinion. If you have health insurance, an office visit or phone call is incredibly simple and inexpensive. Who knows if you’ll hurt your back on a ladder or pushing a vacuum? Your doctor can give you some obvious (and maybe less apparent) advice, even direct you toward a preferred approach for any of your potential activities.
And while asking a medical provider about how to clean your room may sound absurd, consider how much of a physical risk it may be for you. If you’re not too concerned, you can be careful and do it on your own, but if you haven’t moved much for some time, it will be worth your time.
1. Adriane Fugh-Berman, M.D. Women’s Health Network. Forget Sweat: Discover Incidental Exercise.
2. WebMD. The Lazy Person’s Exercise Plan.
Images: Flickr, OutwriteLiving.com, DIYnetwork.com.