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How to get more incidental exercise into our days!

We all know the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle!

And many of us have taken note and even acted, cramming gym sessions and home workouts into our busy lives. These intentional exercise sessions are vital for your health.

As physiotherapists, we advise you to keep doing them!

But what if that’s not enough?

You might have heard the alarming phrase “sitting is the new smoking”, coined by Dr James Levine of the Mayo Clinic. Being sedentary really is very, very bad for you. It is, it seems carcinogenic with a sedentary lifestyle linked to an increased risk of certain cancers according to a 2014 meta-analysis. (Please note that nobody is suggesting you take up smoking.)

The disappointing news is that a few gym sessions a week can’t offset those ten to fifteen hours a day of sitting at a desk, in a car and finally, collapsing (possibly in front of yet another screen) at the end of the day that is daily life for so many office workers. The body needs to move fairly constantly for the lymphatic system to work well; keep our muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones strong; and keep our cardiovascular system ticking over.

It’s vital then, to incorporate movement into our daily lives not just our workouts.

How can we do this?

There are some obvious things like walking or cycling more in our commutes and taking the stairs rather than the lifts. But just for fun here are a few ideas to increase the movement in your days without taking up more time…

  • Race through your chores.

Literally! Set a timer and see just how quickly you can get all the laundry put away, leaves raked up, or the house tidied up. (This is a great way to motivate children to help with the household chores by the way.) You’ll get a bit of cardiovascular exercise and get the house tidied faster!

  • Dance around while getting ready in the morning.

Rather than drag yourself through your morning routine put on some upbeat music and dance while you dress, salsa while applying sunscreen, tap dance while tooth-brushing, and foxtrot while finding your keys….. You might find you need less coffee to get your brain into gear in the morning if you add fun and movement to the routine. And again, you might actually save time. You can also dance through your chores if racing is not your thing.

  • Play

You’re busy and probably exhausted (it’s the modern condition) so you probably want to fall onto the sofa and watch or read something at the end of a long day/week/month. But if you can muster the energy to play rather than be passively entertained, the movement and fund will reinvigorate you. A kick-about outside, a game of musical statues or an improvised obstacle course could replace a family movie night. A home disco, romantic walk or trying a new sport together could replace dinner and movie date nights. (And, yes – sex does count as exercise.) Playing Wii or X-box Connect style video games, beating your previous scores gets movement into your day and is at least as much fun as playing solitaire.

  • Steal moments to move

Why not do a few calf raises while waiting for the lights to change at the pedestrian crossing or contract and release muscles while standing in a queue at the supermarket? Why not stand and walk on the spot whenever you’re on hold on the telephone? Those micro-moments of movement can add up to something meaningful for your health when you take advantage of them.

  • Transform your veg-out time

After all that, you might still want to just veg out sometimes. And why not? You have earned it. Consider a stepper or exercise bike in front of the television for gentle continuous movement while you zone out. Or perhaps you could use that time to stretch gently.

Of course, you still need to keep your intentional exercise programme going. You need both the incidental and the deliberate exercise (whether that’s sports, dance or hitting the gym.) Our top tip as physiotherapists is to find forms of exercise that you love.

What are your sneaky tricks to incorporate incidental exercise into your day?

References:

Christensen, J. (2015, April 30). Sitting will kill you, even if you exercise. [Online] Available at https://edition.cnn.com/2015/01/21/health/sitting-will-kill-you/index.html. Accessed on 23/12/2022.

ESMO. (2014, June 18). Sedentary Behavior Increases the Risk Of Certain Cancers. [Online] Available at https://www.esmo.org/oncology-news/archive/sedentary-behavior-increases-the-risk-of-certain-cancers. Accessed on 23/12/2022.

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