Sitting for long periods can cause aches and pains, joint stiffness, and a variety of long-term health problems, including type 2 diabetes and obesity. We all know we should be more active, but finding the time to do a workout can be challenging for busy working adults. Sometimes we assume we don’t have time to be active because we don’t know what we should be aiming for. So how much activity do you need to maintain a healthy weight and overall health?
Adults should aim for 2 ½ hours of moderate physical activity throughout the week. Moderate exercise is defined as a type of activity that increases your breathing and heart rate but doesn’t make you feel out of breath. One way to know if you are in the midst of a “moderate” level activity is to see if you can talk but not sing. If you can sing, you probably aren’t working out hard enough, and if you can’t talk without running out of breath quickly, you have hit the “vigorous” level. Vigorous activities are also healthy in moderation.
Let’s do the math. 2 ½ hours a week breaks down to about 22 minutes of activity per day. That sounds doable, right? Here’s how to your 22 minutes of exercise a day without adding to your already busy schedule:
Turn Your Sitting Activities into Moving Activities
How much time do you spend every day sitting in front of the television or looking at your phone? Is it more than 22 minutes? Try putting a treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical in front of your T.V. During the time you’d typically be sitting on your couch to watch your favorite show, get on your exercise machine and move fast enough to get your heart pumping. One sitcom later, you’re done with your exercise for the day. You can also look at your phone, talk on the phone or check your email while you get your exercise in. Just make sure to be safe and keep one hand on a handlebar if you are using a treadmill.
You don’t have to own exercise equipment to use this tip. You could also jog in place while you do these same activities. Getting exercise throughout your workday can also add up and leave you free to do other things in the evening. If you can stand at your desk, try power walking in place a few times a day. This will help you to break up your time sitting, which has been proven to have multiple health benefits, and you’ll reach your exercise quota before you clock out.
Make the Most of Your Routine
Walking faster than average, sometimes called power walking, or walking while carrying heavy shopping bags or children counts as moderate activity. Try walking your kids to school and then power walking home. Park further from the store and walk faster than you normally would through the parking lot and even while you shop. Do you have to carry groceries or a toddler up your stairs? You just got in a few minutes of moderate activity.
Pay attention to the things you already do, and you’ll notice that they add up. Walking while carrying something heavy or going up and down stairs without carrying anything also works your muscles. Who needs weights when you have groceries and a toddler or live in a split level? You might already be getting fifteen minutes of moderate activity most days just through routine activities like these. That means you only have to find seven more minutes in your day to get some exercise in. Try doing some push-ups, sit-ups, or stair steppers. You’ll be working your muscles and getting in your required cardio without having to rearrange your schedule.
Walk Every Chance You Get
Besides walking your kids to school and parking farther away from stores, you can also make small changes like taking the stairs at work. You don’t have to get your 22 minutes in all at once. If you can walk for ten minutes on your lunch break and 12 minutes after dinner, you’ve accomplished your goal.
You might be surprised by how many opportunities to get up and walk you can find in your day. One clever trick is to set a timer for every hour while you’re at work and then get up and fill your water bottle. If you walk fast to the cooler and back, you can get in some exercise and keep yourself hydrated. This habit also keeps you from sitting too long in one stretch.
Some people find using a step tracker to be motivating, but it’s the type of walking you’re doing that really matters. For instance, five minutes spent taking the stairs is better exercise than 100 steps strolling through a park. Walking is always better than sitting, but remember to aim for that “moderate” level sweet spot to feel the benefit.
Take Up an Active Hobby
Even busy people need a hobby. Why not have an active one? Try playing tennis or swimming at your local rec center. Or take up snowshoeing to get you moving in the winter. Studies have shown that people who participate in athletic activities they find enjoyable are more likely to stay in shape than people who have to force themselves to go to the gym.
Many people get bored with fitness if all they ever do is run on a treadmill or use the bench press. Supplementing other healthy lifestyle habits with a sport that gets you moving can set you up for lifetime health benefits. Remember that 2/12 hours of moderate activity per week is the bare minimum for maintaining health. If you need to lose weight or have other specific health goals, you may need more exercise, and a sport is a fun way to get it.