For most people, being physically active brings up ideas of lifting weights at a gym, going for a jog, or following along with an exercise video. Those of course are physical activities and are important for good health. However, limiting our idea of moving more to just structured exercise makes it easy to overlook other opportunities to be activity throughout the day.
The term “lifestyle” physical activity is fairly new, but it captures all the ways we can be less sedentary in everyday life. All the familiar tips, like parking farther away from the store, taking the stairs instead of an elevator/escalator, or pacing around while talking on the phone, are lifestyle physical activities. Over time, our society has become more sedentary (inactive) and more of our time is spent sitting- at desks at work, on the couch at home, and behind the wheel of a car. This change is partially responsible for the increase in obesity and chronic diseases in our country. Now, we have to make the decision to add more lifestyle physical activities to our day, or else it’s very easy to spend all day sitting.
Nowadays, the dangers of sitting too much are being uncovered and the results are not good. For the small portion of Americans who actually do meet the recommended amount of physical activity (150 minutes per week), spending the rest of the day sitting can wipe out any health benefits of their 30-60 minutes of exercise. For the rest of us who don’t meet the recommendations, the health risks are even greater. Short bursts of lifestyle physical activity throughout the day helps combat the risks of sitting too much.
Today, only a few (about 20%) adults choose active transportation for trips under 1 mile. Fewer children walk or bike to school than in the past. But depending on where you live, walking and biking can be an active alternative to driving to work, school, or for running errands. And research shows that people who use public transportation tend to walk more than those who drive.
If walking, biking, or public transportation is not realistic where you live (no sidewalks, fast traffic, too rural, etc.), you can still find ways to add more physical activity. For example, instead of pulling up to the mailbox in your car, park the car and walk to the mailbox. Or try to park in a central location when running errands instead of driving to each destination separately.
Last year, Americans reported spending an average of 3 ½ hours watching TV a day, a number that has gradually increased each year. Compare that to an average of just 1 ½ hours a day spent playing sports, exercising, and/or active recreation, for the 20% of people who actually reported doing so. People who choose active lifestyles find other hobbies than watching TV.
Check out the parks and recreation department in your community to find a variety of new hobbies to try with your family. If you played sports in high school, think about signing up for an adult rec league team. These leagues are usually affordable, open to a range of skill levels, and a good way to make new friends.
An often-overlooked way to move more is household chores. Cleaning house- vacuuming, dusting, and mopping- gets you on your feet and counts as moderate physical activity. The same is true for gardening and yard work. The bonus of these physical activities is that when you’re done, you have a nice clean house and yard to enjoy.
Since we spend about 1/3 of our day at work, moving more in the office is important, too. Break up long periods of sitting with a quick walk around the building, stretching out tight muscles, or simply standing up for a minute or two. I try to stand whenever I’m on the phone as a handy reminder. Depending on your workplace, alternate between sitting and standing during the day. Take part of your lunch break to walk or squeeze in a few body weight exercises. Keep it short and lower intensity so you won’t get sweaty. This can be a great opportunity to invite your coworkers to join you and increase social support.
By adding a few of these strategies, you’ll be able to build up the amount of lifestyle physical activity in your day. Focusing on lifestyle physical activities is an effective way to move more throughout the day without taking up precious time in a busy schedule.
What are some ways you are already incorporating lifestyle physical activities?
What are some other lifestyle physical activities you can add to your day?