Reviewed by Tyler Wheeler, MD on November 23, 2020
It helps your blood flow through your body, increases your range of motion, and may help prevent an injury. And you can do it anywhere, even at your desk during the workday. But keep it gentle. Don’t push to the point of serious pain, and never “bounce” into a stretch.
If you live close to town, think of all the places you drive within a mile of your home. In the time it takes to load up the car, drive, find -- and possibly pay for -- parking, you could probably have walked there. In heavy traffic, a walk even might get you there faster.
Tense Your Muscles
No time for the gym? No problem. You can do this almost anywhere and in very little time. A typical example: Tighten your stomach muscles for 3 to 10 seconds. Repeat 4 times. Your co-workers won’t even know you’re working out. These exercises may lower your blood pressure as well.
Get a Jogging Stroller
Don’t feel trapped in the house with the kid. Take them with you! A stroller can make your jog an adventure for everyone. So strap in the munchkin, bring some emergency supplies, and get out into the world.
Have Leash, Will Walk
Fido isn’t the only one who needs his daily walk, but the fact that he does can get you moving. Owning a dog makes you more likely to be physically active. The guilt of that unused gym membership is nothing compared to the look he gives you when he wants a walk. So grab a leash, and maybe a Frisbee, and save that gym membership money for doggie treats.
Need 30 minutes to catch up with a co-worker? Do it on foot and kill two birds with one stone. Not only will you get some exercise, but you may also do your job better.
Take the Stairs
In 1 minute, a 150-pound person burns 10 calories walking up stairs, compared with 1.5 calories taking the elevator. If you’re headed to the 35th floor, you don’t have to tromp all the way up (unless you just want to). Take the elevator to the 30th floor and walk up the last five. And take the stairs one at a time. It actually burns more calories than taking them two at a time.
Park Farther Away
Whether you’re at the grocery store, the office, or the post office, park at the back of the lot. You’re less likely to get in a fender bender, and you’ll get closer to your exercise quota for the week.
Just three 20-second sprints, with a 2-minute break in between, may be as good for you as 50 minutes of moderate jogging. You could do that on your lunch break -- and still have time for lunch. Just make sure to warm up first. And ask your doctor if you’re not sure if you’re healthy enough for vigorous exercise.
Use Public Transportation
In one city, the average commuter added about 15 minutes of physical activity per day -- mostly walking to and from buses and trains -- when they took public transportation. That’s 105 minutes of the recommended 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity recommended per week. Plus, you’ll save on gas.
Take the Long Way Home
It’s trash day -- you’re going to have to put your coat and shoes on anyway. Why not take a stroll around the block while you’re at it? If the weather’s fine and you’ve got the time, give it a shot whenever you have to be out on foot.
Bike to Work
Local message boards or a bike commuter group can help you find the safest route. There’s lots of help out there. Many companies even have somewhere for you to clean up after your ride.
As the person you live with will tell you, you have any number of chances to be active around the house and yard. Scrub the tub a little harder than usual. It can get your heart rate up. Does the car need a detail? Do it yourself: You’ll save some money and get a workout at the same time.
Need to send a message to a co-worker across the office? Don’t email it, walk it over. It’s a chance to bond with colleagues, and it gets you out of your seat and on your feet for a bit. Do that a few times a day and you’ll be surprised how many steps you can get in.
Stay off the Couch
Don’t settle in with a bowl of ice cream to watch TV. Put the remote across the room so you have to get up to change the channel. Ride an exercise bike or run in place while you watch, do pushups during commercial breaks, or just tidy up around the living room. You’ll burn calories and be more likely to stay out of the fridge.
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CDC: “Five Minutes or Less for Health Weekly Tip: Be Active,” “Change Happens One Step at A Time.”
European Journal of Epidemiology: “Commuting physical activity is favourably associated with biological risk factors for cardiovascular disease.”
Harvard Business Review: “How to Do Walking Meetings Right.”
Journal of Public Health Policy: “Bicycling for Transportation and Health: The Role of Infrastructure.”
LiveScience: “Fit in 60 Seconds? 1-Minute Workout May Be Good Enough.”
Mayo Clinic: “Fitting in fitness: Finding time for physical activity,” “How much should the average adult exercise every day?” “Stretching essentials.”
Michigan State University: “Dog Walkers More Likely to Reach Exercise Benchmarks.”
MoveItMonday: “5 Ways to Add More Steps to Your Day.”
National Institutes of Health: “The Energy Expenditure of Stair Climbing One Step and Two Steps at a Time: Estimations from Measures of Heart Rate,” “Walking and Cycling to Health: A Comparative Analysis of City, State, and International Data,” “Walking, cycling, and obesity rates in Europe, North America, and Australia,” “Opportunities Abound for Moving Around,” “Dog ownership and physical activity: a review of the evidence,” “Physiologic responses to running with a jogging stroller,” “Evidence for the role of isometric exercise training in reducing blood pressure: potential mechanisms and future directions.”
National Strength and Conditioning Association: “The Often Forgotten Exercises: Isometric Training.”