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The Lazy Person's Exercise Plan

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But we're not overcompensating. Instead, we're coming home from a day of sitting at the office computer only to sit some more -- at our home computer, in front of the TV, and at the dinner table.

No, you don't have to start training for a marathon. The difference between getting healthy and becoming a statistic "is increasing your activity level gradually, maybe by 20% a week. That will get you up to the recommended levels before too long," says Tan.

How to do it? The following options can be just as effective as jumping jacks, jogging trails, or high-priced gyms:

  • Don't use elevators or escalators; instead, take the stairs. Start with one such substitution a day, and build up slowly. So you work on the 50th floor? Ride up to 48 and walk up from there. Careful, though -- walking down stairs can be hard on your knees. Walk up, but ride down.
  • Stop circling parking lots and fighting for the closest spot. Park a little bit farther away from the office or mall, and walk. You'll not only increase fitness, you'll decrease stress.
  • If you take the bus or subway, get off one or two stops early and walk the rest of the way.
  • Vacuum more often, change the sheets more often, mop the floor more often. These get your heart pumping, which means they are excellent calorie burners.
  • Cold and snowy where you live? Shovel it, walk your dog in it, build an igloo with your kids. The activity will not only boost your fitness levels, it will help keep you warm!

According to Tan, "That's all you need to do to make a real difference in your fitness level. Everyday activities that you might not think are exercise, are exercise." In the new recommendations, doing the laundry, vacuuming, and cleaning your house all count as exercise.

Tan says that everyone should consult a doctor before beginning an exercise regime, even one this gentle. But, she says, very few people can expect to be told that they cannot or should not exercise.

"Absolutely everyone can benefit from increasing his or her activity level," she says. "Even the most athletic people will improve their fitness level, and this is especially true for sedentary or overweight people."

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